Inorg Chem. 2022 Nov 9. doi: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.2c03225. Online ahead of print.
Atomically dispersed organometallic clusters can provide well-defined nuclearity of active sites for both fundamental studies as well as new regimes of activity and selectivity in chemical transformations. More recently, dinuclear clusters adsorbed onto solid surfaces have shown novel catalytic properties resulting from the synergistic effect of two metal centers to anchor different reactant species. Difficulty in synthesizing, stabilizing, and characterizing isolated atoms and clusters without agglomeration challenges allocating catalytic performance to atomic structure. Here, we explore the stability of dinuclear rhodium and iridium clusters adsorbed onto layered titanate and niobate supports using molecular precursors. Both systems maintain their nuclearity when characterized using aberration-corrected high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM). Statistical analysis of HAADF-STEM images revealed that rhodium and iridium dimers had mean cluster-to-cluster distances very similar to what is expected from a random distribution of atoms over a large area, indicating that they are dispersed without aggregation. The stability of dinuclear rhodium clusters supported on titanate nanosheets was also investigated by X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS), DRIFTS, and first-principles calculations. Both X-ray absorption spectroscopy and HAADF-STEM simulations, guided by density functional theory (DFT)-optimized structure models, suggested that rhodium dimers adsorb onto the nanosheets in an end-on binding mode that is stable up to 100 °C under reducing conditions. This study highlights that crystalline nanosheets derived from layered metal oxides can be used as model supports to selectively stabilize dinuclear clusters, which could have implications for heterogeneous catalysis.