Finely controlled multimetallic nanocluster catalysts for solvent-free aerobic oxidation of hydrocarbons

M. Takahashi, H. Koizumi, W. Chun, M. Kori, T. Imaoka, K. Yamamoto
Science Adv. 2017, 3, e1700101.

The catalytic activity of alloy nanoparticles depends on the particle size and composition ratio of different metals. Alloy nanoparticles composed of Pd, Pt, and Au are widely used as catalysts for oxidation reactions. The catalytic activities of Pt and Au nanoparticles in oxidation reactions are known to increase as the particle size decreases and to increase on the metal-metal interface of alloy nanoparticles. Therefore, multimetallic nanoclusters (MNCs) around 1 nm in diameter have potential as catalysts for oxidation reactions. However, there have been few reports describing the preparation of uniform alloy nanoclusters. We report the synthesis of finely controlled MNCs (around 1 nm) using a macromolecular template with coordination sites arranged in a gradient of basicity. We reveal that Cu-Pt-Au MNCs supported on graphitized mesoporous carbon show catalytic activity that is 24 times greater than that of a commercially available Pt catalyst for aerobic oxidation of hydrocarbons. In addition, solvent-free aerobic oxidation of hydrocarbons to ketones at room temperature, using small amounts of a radical initiator, was achieved as a heterogeneous catalytic reaction for the first time.