Reaction Pathway for Coke-Free Methane Steam Reforming on a Ni/CeO2 Catalyst: Active Sites and Role of Metal-Support Interactions

28 May 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Methane steam reforming (MSR) plays a key role in the production of syngas and hydrogen from natural gas. The increasing interest in the use of hydrogen for fuel cell applications demands the development of catalysts with high activity at reduced operating temperatures. Ni-based catalysts are promising systems because of their high activity and low cost, but coke formation generally poses a severe problem. Studies of ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (AP-XPS) indicate that CH4/H2O gas mixtures react with Ni/CeO2(111) surfaces to form OH, CHx and CHxO at 300 K. All these species are easy to form and desorb at temperatures below 700 K when the rate of the MSR process accelerates. Density functional theory (DFT) modeling of the reaction over ceria-supported small Ni nanoparticles predicts relatively low activation barriers between 0.3–0.7 eV for the complete dehydrogenation of methane to carbon and the barrierless activation of water at interfacial Ni sites. Hydroxyls resulting from water activation allow CO formation via a COH intermediate with a barrier of about 0.9 eV, which is much lower than that through a pathway involving lattice oxygen from ceria. Neither methane nor water activation are rate-determining steps, and the OH-assisted CO formation through the COH intermediate constitutes a low-barrier pathway that prevents carbon accumulation. The interaction between Ni and the ceria support and the low metal loading are crucial for the reaction to proceed in a coke-free and efficient way. These results could pave the way for further advances in the design of stable and highly active Ni-based catalysts for hydrogen production.


Steam Reforming

Supplementary materials

Salcedo etal MSR supporting information


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