Sub-nanometer surface chemistry and orbital hybridization in lanthanum-doped ceria nanocatalysts revealed by 3D electron microscopy

23 Aug 2017

Surface chemical composition, electronic structure, and bonding characteristics determine catalytic activity but are not resolved for individual catalyst particles by conventional spectroscopy. In particular, the nano-scale three-dimensional distribution of aliovalent lanthanide dopants in ceria catalysts and their effect on the surface electronic structure remains unclear. Here, we reveal the surface segregation of dopant cations and oxygen vacancies and observe bonding changes in lanthanum-doped ceria catalyst particle aggregates with sub-nanometer precision using a new model-based spectroscopic tomography approach. These findings refine our understanding of the spatially varying electronic structure and bonding in ceria-based nanoparticle aggregates with aliovalent cation concentrations and identify new strategies for advancing high efficiency doped ceria nano-catalysts.