Heating of a ruthenium surface on which carbon monoxide and atomic oxygen are coadsorbed leads exclusively to desorption of carbon monoxide. In contrast, excitation with femtosecond infrared laser pulses enables also the formation of carbon dioxide. The desorption is caused by coupling of the adsorbate to the phonon bath of the ruthenium substrate, whereas the oxidation reaction is initiated by hot substrate electrons, as evidenced by the observed subpicosecond reaction dynamics and density functional calculations. The presence of this laser-induced reaction pathway allows elucidation of the microscopic mechanism and the dynamics of the carbon monoxide oxidation reaction.
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