Thermodynamic Stability of Molybdenum Oxycarbides Formed from Orthorhombic Mo2C in Oxygen-Rich Environments

Carrie Farberow, Sukriti Manna, Vladan Stevanovic, Daniel Ruddy, Joshua Schaidle, David Robichaud, S. R. J. Likith, S. Manna, A. Abdulslam, C. Ciobanu

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35 Scopus Citations


Molybdenum carbide (Mo2C) nanoparticles and thin films are particularly suitable catalysts for catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) as they are effective for deoxygenation and can catalyze certain reactions that typically occur on noble metals. Oxygen deposited during deoxygenation reactions may alter the carbide structure, leading to the formation of oxycarbides, which can determine changes in catalytic activity or selectivity. Despite emerging spectroscopic evidence of bulk oxycarbides, so far there have been no reports of their precise atomic structure or their relative stability with respect to orthorhombic Mo2C. This knowledge is essential for assessing the catalytic properties of molybdenum (oxy)carbides for CFP. In this article, we use density functional theory (DFT) calculations to (a) describe the thermodynamic stability of surface and subsurface configurations of oxygen and carbon atoms for a commonly studied Mo-terminated surface of orthorhombic Mo2C and (b) determine atomic structures for oxycarbides with a Mo:C ratio of 2:1. The surface calculations suggest that oxygen atoms are not stable under the top Mo layer of the Mo2C(100) surface. Coupling DFT calculations with a polymorph sampling method, we determine (Mo2C)xOy oxycarbide structures for a wide range of oxygen compositions. Oxycarbides with lower oxygen content (y/x ≤ 2) adopt layered structures reminiscent of the parent carbide phase, with flat Mo layers separated by layers of oxygen and carbon; for higher oxygen content, our results suggest the formation of amorphous phases, as the atomic layers lose their planarity with increasing oxygen content. We characterize the oxidation states of Mo in the oxycarbide structures determined computationally, and simulate their X-ray diffraction (XRD) patterns in order to facilitate comparisons with experiments. Our study may provide a platform for large-scale investigations of the catalytic properties of oxycarbides and their surfaces and for tailoring the catalytic properties for different desired reactions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1223-1233
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number2
StatePublished - 18 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-71055


  • amorphous carbon
  • carbides
  • catalyst activity
  • density functional theory
  • metal nanoparticles
  • molybdenum
  • oxygen
  • surface properties
  • thermodynamic stability
  • x-ray diffraction


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