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CO adsorption on Pd atoms deposited on MgO(100) thin films has been studied by means of thermal desorption (TDS) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopies. CO desorbs from the adsorbed Pd atoms at a temperature of about 250 K, which corresponds to a binding energy, E-b, of about 0.7 +/- 0.1 eV. FTIR spectra suggest that at saturation two different sites for CO adsorption exist on a single Pd atom. The vibrational frequency of the most stable, singly adsorbed CO molecule is 2055 cm(-1). Density functional cluster model calculations have been used to model possible defect sites at the MgO surface where the Pd atoms are likely to be adsorbed. CO/Pd complexes located at regular or low-coordinated O anions of the surface exhibit considerably stronger binding energies, E-b = 2-2.5 eV, and larger vibrational shifts than were observed in the experiment. CO/Pd complexes located at oxygen vacancies (F or F+ centers) are characterized by much smaller binding energies, E-b = 0.5 +/- 0.2 or 0.7 +/- 0.2 eV, which are in agreement with the experimental value. CO/Pd complexes located at the paramagnetic F+ centers show vibrational frequencies in closest agreement with the experimental data. These comparisons therefore suggest that the Pd atoms are mainly adsorbed at oxygen vacancies.