Hydrogen spillover in tungsten oxide bronzes as observed by broadband neutron spectroscopy

Erwin Lalik, Stewart F. Parker, Gavin John Irvine, Ivan da Silva, Matthias Gutmann, Giovanni Romanelli, Kacper Druzbicki, Robert Kosydar, Matthew Krzystyniak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hydrogen spillover is an elusive process, and its characterization, using experimental probes and ab initio modeling, poses a serious challenge. In this work, the nuclear quantum dynamics of hydrogen in a palladium-decorated cubic polymorph of tungsten oxide, Pd/cWO3, are characterized by the technique of neutron Compton scattering augmented by ab initio harmonic lattice modeling. The deeply penetrating nature of the neutron scattering process, the lack of spectroscopic selection rules, the inherent high sensitivity to hydrogen, the high energy and momentum resolution for hydrogen, and the mass selectivity of the technique render the neutron Compton scattering a very potent and unique tool for investigating the local dynamics of hydrogen species in bulk matrices. The total neutron Compton scattering response of hydrogen is described in terms of the hydrogen momentum distribution. The distribution is deconvoluted under the assumption of three pools of hydrogen with distinctly different nuclear quantum dynamical behavior: (i) hydrogen-terminated beta-palladium hydride, (ii) hydrogen in acid centers (OH+ groups) on the surface of the cubic phase of tungsten oxide, and (iii) quasi-free atomic hydrogen inside the saturated hydrogen bronze resulting from the spillover process. The ab initio modeling of lattice dynamics yields theoretical predictions for the values of the widths of proton momentum distributions in the first two hydrogen pools, which allows for obtaining the contribution and the width of the momentum distribution of the quasi-free atomic hydrogen resulting from the hydrogen spillover process. The analysis reveals that the local binding strength of the quasi-free hydrogen is characterized by the values of nuclear momentum distribution width, nuclear kinetic energy, and force constant of the underlying potential of the mean force close to those of free, unconstrained hydrogen atomic species in a gas of non-interacting particles described by the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. Moreover, this picture of the local dynamics of the quasi-free hydrogen is consistent with the proton polaron model of hydrogen-induced coloration of bulk hydrogenated WO3.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5496
Number of pages20
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2023


  • Heterogenous catalysis
  • Hydrogen bronzes
  • Hydrogen spillover
  • Neutron Compton scattering
  • Nuclear quantum effects


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