Combining X-ray Absorption and X-ray Diffraction Techniques for in Situ Studies of Chemical Transformations in Heterogeneous Catalysis: Advantages and Limitations

Recent advances in catalysis instrumentations include synchrotron-based facilities where time-resolved X-ray scattering and absorption techniques are combined in the same in situ or operando experiment to study catalysts at work. To evaluate the advances and limitations of this method, we performed a series of experiments at the new XAFS/XRD instrument in the National Synchrotron Light Source. Nearly simultaneous X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray absorption fine-structure (XAFS) measurements of structure and kinetics of several catalysts under reducing or oxidizing conditions have been performed and carefully analyzed. For CuFe2O4 under reducing conditions, the combined use of the two techniques allowed us to obtain accurate data on kinetics of nucleation and growth of metallic Cu. For the inverse catalyst CuO/CeO2 that underwent isothermal reduction (with CO) and oxidation (with O2), the XAFS data measured in the same experiment with XRD revealed strongly disordered Cu species that went undetected by diffraction. These and other examples emphasize the unique sensitivity of these two complementary methods to follow catalytic processes in the broad ranges of length and time scales.