Noninnocent Nature of Carbon Support in Metal/Carbon Catalysts: Etching/Pitting vs Nanotube Growth under Microwave Irradiation

Microwave irradiation of Ni, Co, Cu, Ag, and Pt metal salts supported on graphite and charcoal revealed a series of carbon surface modification processes that varied depending on the conditions used (inert atmosphere, vacuum, or air) and the nature of metal salt. Carbon materials, routinely used to prepare supported metal catalysts and traditionally considered to be innocent on this stage, were found to actively change under the studied conditions: etching and pitting of the carbon surface by metal particles as well as growth of carbon nanotubes were experimentally observed by FE-SEM analysis. Catalyst preparation under microwave irradiation led to the formation of complex metal/carbon structures with significant changes in carbon morphology. These findings are of great value in developing an understanding of how M/C catalysts form and evolve and will help to design a new generation of efficient and stable catalysts. The energy surfaces of carbon support modification processes were studied with theoretical calculations at the density functional level. The energy surface of the multistage process of carbon nanotube formation from an etched graphene sheet was calculated for various types of carbon centers. These calculations indicated that interconversion of graphene layers and single wall carbon nanotubes is possible when cycloparaphenylene rings act as building units.