Industrial catalysts are often comprised of nanoparticles supported on high-surface-area oxides, in order to maximise the catalytically active surface area and thereby utilise the active material better. These nanoparticles expose steps and corners that, due to low coordination to neighboring atoms, are more reactive and, as a consequence, are often assumed to have higher catalytic activity. We have investigated the reaction between CO and preadsorbed O on a stepped Rh(553) surface, and show that CO oxidation indeed occurs faster than on the flat Rh(111) surface at the same temperature. However, we do find that this is not a result of reactions at the step sites but rather at the terrace sites close to the steps, due to in-plane relaxation enabled by the step. This insight can provide ways to optimize the shape of the nanoparticles to further improve the activity of certain reactions.
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