First-principles screening studies aimed at predicting the catalytic activity of transition metal (TM) catalysts have traditionally been based on mean-field (MF) microkinetic models, which neglect the effect of spatial correlations in the adsorbate layer. Here we critically assess the accuracy of such models for the specific case of CO methanation over stepped metals by comparing to spatially resolved kinetic Monte Carlo (kMC) simulations. We find that the typical low diffusion barriers offered by metal surfaces can be significantly increased at step sites, which results in persisting correlations in the adsorbate layer. As a consequence, MF models may overestimate the catalytic activity of TM catalysts by several orders of magnitude. The potential higher accuracy of kMC models comes at a higher computational cost, which can be especially challenging for surface reactions on metals due to a large disparity in the time scales of different processes. In order to overcome this issue, we implement and test a recently developed algorithm for achieving temporal acceleration of kMC simulations. While the algorithm overall performs quite well, we identify some challenging cases which may lead to a breakdown of acceleration algorithms and discuss possible directions for future algorithm development.

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