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Keywords:

  • heterogeneous catalysis;
  • oxidation;
  • oxygen activation;
  • surface chemistry;
  • thin films
Thumbnail image of graphical abstract

Distortion is the key: In situ EPR spectroscopy provides the first experimental confirmation that the adsorption of O2 molecules on a stoichiometric ultrathin MgO(001) film on Mo(001) leads to the spontaneous formation of O2.− radicals. The results show that polaronic distortion of the MgO lattice (see picture; Mg yellow, O blue) stabilizes the radical, and this distortion is only possible in very thin films.