Alloying elements with strong and weak adsorption properties can produce a catalyst with optimally tuned adsorbate binding. A full understanding of this alloying effect, however, is not well-established. Here, we use density functional theory to study the ensemble, ligand, and strain effects of close-packed surfaces alloyed by transition metals with a combination of strong and weak adsorption of H and O. Specifically, we consider PdAu, RhAu, and PtAu bimetallics as ordered and randomly alloyed (111) surfaces, as well as randomly alloyed 140-atom clusters. In these alloys, Au is the weak-binding component and Pd, Rh, and Pt are characteristic strong-binding metals. In order to separate the different effects of alloying on binding, we calculate the tunability of H- and O-binding energies as a function of lattice constant (strain effect), number of alloy-substituted sublayers (ligand effect), and randomly alloyed geometries (ensemble effect). We find that on these alloyed surfaces, the ensemble effect more significantly tunes the adsorbate binding as compared to the ligand and strain effects, with the binding energies predominantly determined by the local adsorption environment provided by the specific triatomic ensemble on the (111) surface. However, we also find that tuning of adsorbate binding from the ligand and strain effects cannot be neglected in a quantitative description. Extending our studies to other bimetallics (PdAg, RhAg, PtAg, PdCu, RhCu, and PtCu), we find similar conclusions that the tunability of adsorbate binding on random alloys is predominately described by the ensemble effect.

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