Atomic Resolution Imaging of Nanoscale Structural Ordering in a Complex Metal Oxide Catalyst

Yihan Zhu, Qingxiao Wang, Lan Zhao, Baiyang Teng, Weimin Lu, Yu Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The determination of the atomic structure of a functional material is crucial to understanding its "structure-to-property" relationship (e.g., the active sites in a catalyst), which is however challenging if the structure possesses complex inhomogeneities. Here, we report an atomic structure study of an important MoVTeO complex metal oxide catalyst that is potentially useful for the industrially relevant propane-based BP/SOHIO process. We combined aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy with synchrotron powder X-ray crystallography to explore the structure at both nanoscopic and macroscopic scales. At the nanoscopic scale, this material exhibits structural and compositional order within nanosized "domains", while the domains show disordered distribution at the macroscopic scale. We proposed that the intradomain compositional ordering and the interdomain electric dipolar interaction synergistically induce the displacement of Te atoms in the Mo-V-O channels, which determines the geometry of the multifunctional metal oxo-active sites.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3269-3278
Number of pages10
JournalChemistry of Materials
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 14 2012

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by baseline research funds from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. We appreciate the support of Dr. Qinfen Gu from Australian Synchrotron research center for carrying out the powder X-ray diffraction experiments. We thank Prof. Guanglie Lv (National Science Park, Zhejiang, PR China) for useful discussions.


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