Teamwork between tiny catalyst nanoparticles

Catalysts composed of various components, only a few nanometers in size, whose cooperation is of decisive importance. When the teamwork succeeds, the power of the catalyst is far greater than that of the individual components.
Vayssilov et al., 
Nature Materials 10, 310-315 (2011).

Heterogeneous catalytic processes play a decisive role in energy and materials efficient production of most industrial chemicals, as well as in future key technologies for energy and the environment. The materials studied here are extremely complex, so that is has been extraordinarily difficult to obtain insights into the way they work. For this reason, most catalysts are optimised empirically (by trial and error), so that making them is often described as “black magic”. The international research team has managed to make systems which model these catalysts. These permit on the one hand analysis by the most modern methods, for example by synchrotron light, and on the other hand the use of modern, so-called quantum mechanical theoretical methods. Together, theory and experiment offer the possibility of obtaining a detailed insight into these complex materials. 

It was then found that it was exactly this structure which created the new properties of the material: the catalysts consist of oxide and metal particles of only a few nanometers in size, but they must be in close contact. The special chemical activity then comes about by cooperation between the different components. Only when they exist with the special form of nanoparticles can the highly reactive oxygen species be exchanged and open up new reaction paths. 

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Support nanostructure boosts oxygen transfer to catalytically active platinum nanoparticles, G. N. Vayssilov, Y. Lykhach, A. Migani, T. Staudt, G. P. Petrova, N. Tsud, T. Skála, A. Bruix, F. Illas, K. C. Prince, V. Matolín, K. M. Neyman and J. Libuda, Nature Materials 10, 310-315 (2011) .
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2012 16:34