“We used to believe that these chemical reactions occur right on top of the platinum particles,” said Gareth Parkinson in a press release issued by the Vienna University of Technology. Together with Ulrike Diebold of the Institute of Applied Physics at the Vienna University of Technology, he has been working for years on studying the behavior of metal oxide surfaces. Diebold was already given an “advanced grant” by the European Research Council (ERC) for his work in this field, and also received the “Wittgenstein Prize” in Austria.
Images made with a scanning tunneling microscope now clearly show that the reaction does not take place on the platinum particles but as an interaction with the substrate layer made of iron oxide. The oxygen for the oxidation process originates there and not from the surrounding atmosphere, as originally believed. The researchers hope to be able to targetedly produce better catalysts as a result of gaining a deeper understanding of the processes.