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The solved platinum riddle

Iron oxide surface with two platinum atoms which are attached to a carbon monoxide molecule. © Vienna University of Technology

Years ago, it was already discovered that platinum catalysts could oxidize carbon monoxide at temperatures which, according to their theoretical models, should not have been possible at all. Now, with the help of atomic-scale microscopic images and complex computer simulations, a research team at the Vienna University of Technology has explaining this phenomenon by showing that both the catalyst itself and the material on which it is anchored assume "metastable" states for a short time. The results were published in the scientific journal "Science Advances."

The research group led by Prof. Gareth Parkinson at the Institute of Applied Physics of the Vienna University of Technology is now investigating the smallest catalysts possible. In this case, individual platinum atoms are placed on an iron oxide surface. They then come into contact with carbon monoxide gas and convert poisonous carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. "This process is technically very important, but exactly what happens on an atomic level has not been clear until now," says Gareth Parkinson.

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