Size-dependence of carbon nanotube confinement in catalysis
An increasing number of studies have demonstrated that confinement within carbon nanotubes (CNTs) provides an effective approach for the modulation of catalysis. It was generally predicted that confinement became stronger with a decreasing diameter of CNTs. However, our present study here overturns the previous expectation: the influence on catalysis is not monotonic. Instead, it exhibits a volcano relationship with CNT diameter. Taking Pt catalyzing O2 conversion and Re catalyzing N2 conversion as probes using density functional theory, we show that only within tubes with an i.d. of ∼1 nm can the activity of metal clusters be enhanced to its maximum. Furthermore, confinement only enhances the catalytic activity of metals with strong intrinsic binding with reactants, whereas it is suppressed for those with weak binding. These findings shed further light on the fundamental effects of confinement on catalysis, and could guide more rational design of confined catalysts.