HRTEM and Molecular Modeling of the MoS 2-Co9 S 8 Interface: Understanding the Promotion Effect in Bulk HDS Catalysts
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As environmental regulations increase, more selective transition metal sulfide (TMS) catalytic materials for hydrotreating applications are needed. Highly active TMS catalysts become more and more desirable triggering new interest for unsupported Co-promoted MoS2-based systems that have high volumetric activity as reported here. Contrary to the common observation for alumina-supported MoS2-based catalysts, we found in our previous studies with dibenzothiophene (DBT) hydrodesulfurization (HDS) that the catalytic activity is directly proportional to the increase of surface area of the sulfide phases (Co9S8 and MoS2) present in Co-promoted MoS2 unsupported catalysts. This suggests that activity is directly connected with an increase of the contact surface area between the two sulfide phases. Understanding of the nature of the possible interaction between MoS2 and Co9S8 in unsupported catalytic systems is therefore critical in order to get a more generalized overview of the causes for synergy. This has been achieved herein through the detailed characterization by XRD, XPS, and HRTEM of the highly active Co9S8/MoS2 catalyst resulting in a proposed model for a Co9S8/MoS2 interface. This model was then subjected to a DFT analysis to determine a reasonable description of the surface contact region between the two bulk phases. Modelling of the interface shows the creation of open latent vacancy sites on Mo atoms interacting with Co and formation of direct Co-Mo bonds. Strong electron donation from Co to Mo also occurs through the intermediate sulfur atom bonded to both metals while an enhanced metallic character is also found. These changes in coordination and electronic properties are expected to favor a synergetic effect between Co and Mo at the proposed localized interface region between the two bulk MoS2 and Co9S8 phases.