Characterizing electronic and atomic structures for amorphous and molecular metal oxide catalysts at functional interfaces by combining soft X-ray spectroscopy and high-energy X-ray scattering
Amorphous thin film materials and heterogenized molecular catalysts supported on electrode and other functional interfaces are widely investigated as promising catalyst formats for applications in solar and electrochemical fuels catalysis. However the amorphous character of these catalysts and the complexity of the interfacial architectures that merge charge transport properties of electrode and semiconductor supports with discrete sites for multi-step catalysis poses challenges for probing mechanisms that activate and tune sites for catalysis. This minireview discusses advances in soft X-ray spectroscopy and high-energy X-ray scattering that provide opportunities to resolve interfacial electronic and atomic structures, respectively, that are linked to catalysis. This review discusses how these techniques can be partnered with advances in nanostructured interface synthesis for combined soft X-ray spectroscopy and high-energy X-ray scattering analyses of thin film and heterogenized molecular catalysts. These combined approaches enable opportunities for the characterization of both electronic and atomic structures underlying fundamental catalytic function, and that can be applied under conditions relevant to device applications.