Metal–water interfaces are central to understanding aqueous-phase heterogeneous catalytic processes. However, the explicit modeling of the interface is still challenging as it necessitates extensive sampling of the interfaces’ degrees of freedom. Herein, we use ab initio molecular dynamics (AIMD) simulations to study the adsorption of furfural, a platform biomass chemical on several catalytically relevant metal–water interfaces (Pt, Rh, Pd, Cu, and Au) at low coverages. We find that furfural adsorption is destabilized on all the metal–water interfaces compared to the metal–gas interfaces considered in this work. This destabilization is a result of the energetic penalty associated with the displacement of water molecules near the surface upon adsorption of furfural, further evidenced by a linear correlation between solvation energy and the change in surface water coverage. To predict solvation energies without the need for computationally expensive AIMD simulations, we demonstrate OH binding energy as a good descriptor to estimate the solvation energies of furfural. Using microkinetic modeling, we further explain the origin of the activity for furfural hydrogenation on intrinsically strong-binding metals under aqueous conditions, i.e., the endothermic solvation energies for furfural adsorption prevent surface poisoning. Our work sheds light on the development of active aqueous-phase catalytic systems via rationally tuning the solvation energies of reaction intermediates.
Solvation of furfural at metal–water interfaces: Implications for aqueous phase hydrogenation reactions
Present address: Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA and Materials Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
Sihang Liu, Sudarshan Vijay, Mianle Xu, Ang Cao, Hector Prats, Georg Kastlunger, Hendrik H. Heenen, Nitish Govindarajan; Solvation of furfural at metal–water interfaces: Implications for aqueous phase hydrogenation reactions. J. Chem. Phys. 28 August 2023; 159 (8): 084702. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0157573
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