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June, 2017

Recent studies of single-atom catalysts open up the prospect of designing exceptionally active and environmentally efficient chemical processes. The stability and durability of such catalysts is governed by the strength with which the atoms are bound to their support and their diffusive behaviour. Here we use aberration-corrected STEM to image the diffusion of single copper adatoms on graphene oxide. We discover that individual atoms exhibit anomalous diffusion as a result of spatial and energetic disorder inherent in the support, and interpret the origins of this behaviour to develop a physical picture for the surface diffusion of single metal atoms.

Figure: The diffusion of a single copper atom on a graphene oxide surface is captured by time-resolved scanning transmission electron microscopy. The mean squared displacement (MSD) of each atom as a function of time t shows the diffusion is anomalous (non-Brownian) in nature. 

T. Furnival, R. K. Leary, E.C. Tyo, S. Vajda, Q. M. Ramasse, J. Meurig Thomas , P. D. Bristowe, P. A. Midgley, "Anomalous diffusion of single metal atoms on a graphene oxide support", Chemical Physics Letters (2017) in press