Swellable Organically Modified Silica (SOMS) as a Catalyst Scaffold for Catalytic Treatment of Water Contaminated with Trichloroethylene

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The properties of a swellable organically modified silica (SOMS) scaffold allowed us to synthesize “smart” catalysts with tunable accessibility of the active sites induced by organic swelling agents. Pd nanoparticles (NPs) deposited inside the swollen matrix of SOMS were shown to be selectively located on the interior surface, a surface which is only available through swelling. Techniques such as near ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (NAP–XPS) and cryogenic scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were employed to characterize Pd/SOMS in its swollen as well as unswollen state because their conventional counterparts do not preserve the swollen state of Pd/SOMS during spectral acquisition. The results obtained depicted significant differences between the unswollen and swollen state of Pd/SOMS. The most important difference is that Pd NPs became accessible on the surface after exposure to an organic compound. This indicates that the accessibility of the active sites can be controlled by changing the reaction environment, hence allowing a tunable accessibility induced by organic swelling agents. The effects of the extent of swelling on the catalytic activity were investigated by performing catalytic activity experiments in the presence of an organic swelling agent. Hydrodechlorination (HDC) of trichloroethylene (TCE), an important method of catalytic water abatement, was chosen as a model reaction. The catalytic performance was found to be proportional to the concentration of the organic swelling agent, indicating that the accessibility of active sites is related to the concentration of organic compounds. While the unavoidable reaction product HCl inhibited the commonly used HDC catalyst 1%Pd/Al2O3, 1%Pd/SOMS was able to maintain its rate throughout the reaction under the same conditions, indicating its resistance to the inhibition. Overall, a silica-based catalyst with tunable accessibility of the active sites induced by changes in the reaction environment can have significant implications for heterogeneous catalysis.


hydrodechlorination, organosilicate, smart catalytic materials, stimuli-induced materials, swellable organically modified silica (SOMS), swelling, trichloroethylene

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