CO and H2 (co-)adsorption, direct and H-assisted CO activation, and surface carbon hydrogenation were investigated on C-terminated χ-Fe 5C2(0 0 1) surfaces. Periodic DFT simulations at different surface carbon contents on the carbide surface showed that CO adsorbs preferably linearly on Fe top sites; CO and H2 adsorptions being stable. The perfect carbide surface favors carbidic carbon hydrogenation (i.e. CH formation), whereas carbon-free surface favors direct CO dissociation and restoration of the carbide structure. In partially carbon-vacant intermediate situations, both direct and H-assisted CO activations are energetically feasible, the latter being the preferred path. Considering CHx and CHxO species as initiators for different product types can explain the catalytic behavior and selectivity patterns of iron carbide catalysts. The catalytically active surfaces are concluded to be dynamic, where carbon atoms of the carbide surface participate in the surface reactions, and CO dissociation on vacant sites leads to restoration of the carbide structure.
- Iron carbide