Hydrogen generation from formic acid (FA) has received significant attention. The challenge is to obtain a highly active catalyst under mild conditions for practical applications. Here atomic layer deposition (ALD) of FeOx was performed to deposit an ultrathin oxide coating layer to a Pd/C catalyst, therein the FeOx coverage was precisely controlled by ALD cycles. Transmission electron microscopy and powder X-ray diffraction measurements suggest that the FeOx coating layer improved the thermal stability of Pd nanoparticles (NPs). X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurement showed that deposition of FeOx on the Pd NPs caused a positive shift of Pd3d binding energy. In the FA dehydrogenation reaction, the ultrathin FeOx layer on the Pd/C could considerably improve the catalytic activity, and Pd/C coated with 8 cycles of FeOx showed an optimized activity with turnover frequency being about 2 times higher than the uncoated one. The improved activities were in a volcano-shape as a function of the number of FeOx ALD cycles, indicating the coverage of FeOx is critical for the optimized activity. In summary, simultaneous improvements of activity and thermal stability of Pd/C catalyst by ultra-thin FeOx overlayer suggest to be an effective way to design active catalysts for the FA dehydrogenation reaction.

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