In situ observation of self-assembled hydrocarbon Fischer-Tropsch products on a cobalt catalyst

Violeta Navarro*, Matthijs A. Van Spronsen, Joost W.M. Frenken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is a heterogeneous catalytic reaction that creates approximately 2% of the world's fuel. It involves the synthesis of linear hydrocarbon molecules from a gaseous mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen at high pressures (from a few to tens of bars) and high temperatures (200-350 €...°C). To gain further insight into the fundamental mechanisms of this industrial process, we have used a purpose-built scanning tunnelling microscope to monitor a cobalt model catalyst under reaction conditions. We show that, after 30 €...minutes of reaction, the terraces of the cobalt catalyst are covered by parallel arrays of stripes. We propose that the stripes are formed by the self-assembly of linear hydrocarbon product molecules. Surprisingly, the width of the stripes corresponds to molecules that are 14 or 15 carbon atoms long. We introduce a simple model that explains the accumulation of such long molecules by describing their monomer-by-monomer synthesis and explicitly accounting for their thermal desorption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)929-934
Number of pages6
JournalNature Chemistry
Volume8
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

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