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Revealing the Size-Dependent d-d Excitations of Cobalt Nanoparticles Using Soft X-ray Spectroscopy.


Cobalt-based catalysts are widely used to produce liquid fuels through the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reaction. However, the cobalt nanocatalysts can exhibit intriguing size-dependent activity whose origin remains heavily debated. To shed light on this issue, the electronic structures of cobalt nanoparticles with size ranging from 4 to 10 nm are studied using soft X-ray absorption (XAS) and resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) spectroscopies. The RIXS measurements reveal the significant size-dependent d-d excitations, from which we determine that the crystal-field splitting energy 10Dq changes from 0.6 to 0.9 eV when the particle size is reduced from 10 to 4 nm. The finding that larger Co nanoparticles have smaller 10Dq value is further confirmed by the Co L-edge RIXS simulations with atomic multiplet code. Our RIXS results demonstrate a stronger Co-O bond in smaller Co nanoparticles, which brings in further insight into their size-dependent catalytic performance.

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