Abstract Model calculations are presented to show how the fraction of atoms at the surface of small metal particles increases as their size diminishes in the range 10 to 2 nm. Such particles are prepared either by condensing atoms or aggregates from the vapour phase onto a support, or by chemical methods in the liquid phase, i.e. the traditional routes for preparing supported metal catalysts. The first group of methods leads to artificially pure materials in which the contact between metal and support is poor. The second group of methods leads to the introduction of impurities, to a greater variety of forms of particle, but to a generally firmer binding of metal to support: this permits electronic interactions between the components to occur. Recent literature on the chemisorptive and catalytic properties of metal particles, usually less than 10 nm in size, suggests that certain classes of reaction may be designated as “structure-insensitive” in that their rates depend only minimally on particle size, whereas others, denoted as “structure-sensitive”, have rates which either increase or decrease with size. After discounting trivial effects, a hard core of results remains, demanding explanation. Although certain hydrocarbon transformations appear to need sites comprising more than a certain minimum number of atoms, it is thought that the electronic character of surface atoms plays a greater role than their geometric disposition.
Geoffrey C. Bond