Tuning Selectivity in Propylene Epoxidation by Plasmon Mediated Photo-Switching of Cu Oxidation State

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Oxidation of functioning copper has restricted its applicability as a catalyst for commercially important epoxidation of propylene to form propylene oxide. Here, we report that steady-state selectivity in propylene epoxidation on copper (Cu) nanoparticles increases sharply when the catalyst is illuminated with visible light. The selectivity increase is accompanied by light-induced reduction of the surface Cu atoms, which is brought about by photoexcitation of the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) of Cu. We discuss multiple mechanisms by which Cu LSPR weakens the Cu-O bonds, reducing Cu2O.

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