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Highly Dispersed RuOOH Nanoparticles On Silica Spheres: An Efficient Photothermal Catalyst For Selective Aerobic Oxidation Of Benzyl Alcohol

Qilin Wei, Kiersten G. Guzman, Xinyan Dai, Nuwan H. Attanayake, Daniel R. Strongin, Yugang Sun

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AbstractPhotothermal catalysis represents a promising strategy to utilize the renewable energy source (e.g., solar energy) to drive chemical reactions more efficiently. Successful and efficient photothermal catalysis relies on the availability of ideal photothermal catalysts, which can provide both large areas of catalytically active surface and strong light absorption power simultaneously. Such duplex requirements of a photothermal catalyst exhibit opposing dependence on the size of the catalyst nanoparticles, i.e., smaller size is beneficial for achieving higher surface area and more active surface, whereas larger size favors the light absorption in the nanoparticles. In this article, we report the synthesis of ultrafine RuOOH nanoparticles with a size of 2–3 nm uniformly dispersed on the surfaces of silica (SiOx) nanospheres of hundreds of nanometers in size to tackle this challenge of forming an ideal photothermal catalyst. The ultrasmall RuOOH nanoparticles exhibit a large surface area as well as the ability to activate adsorbed molecular oxygen. The SiOx nanospheres exhibit strong surface light scattering resonances to enhance the light absorption power of the small RuOOH nanoparticles anchored on the SiOx surface. Therefore, the RuOOH/SiOx composite particles represent a new class of efficient photothermal catalysts with a photothermal energy conversion efficiency of 92.5% for selective aerobic oxidation of benzyl alcohol to benzylaldehyde under ambient conditions.