The highest oxidation state observed in graphene-supported sub-nanometer iron oxide clusters

Deborah Perco, Federico Loi, Luca Bignardi, Luca Sbuelz, Paolo Lacovig, Ezequiel Tosi, Silvano Lizzit, Aras Kartouzian, Ueli Heiz, Alessandro Baraldi

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3 Scopus citations


Size-selected iron oxide nanoclusters are outstanding candidates for technological-oriented applications due to their high efficiency-to-cost ratio. However, despite many theoretical studies, experimental works on their oxidation mechanism are still limited to gas-phase clusters. Herein we investigate the oxidation of graphene-supported size-selected Fen clusters by means of high-resolution X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy. We show a dependency of the core electron Fe 2p3/2 binding energy of metallic and oxidized clusters on the cluster size. Binding energies are also linked to chemical reactivity through the asymmetry parameter which is related to electron density of states at the Fermi energy. Upon oxidation, iron atoms in clusters reach the oxidation state Fe(II) and the absence of other oxidation states indicates a Fe-to-O ratio close to 1:1, in agreement with previous theoretical calculations and gas-phase experiments. Such knowledge can provide a basis for a better understanding of the behavior of iron oxide nanoclusters as supported catalysts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number61
JournalCommunications Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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