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A catalyst with a million uses

January 17, 2014 12:20 pm | News | Comments

Solid catalysts based on precious metals, such as palladium, are widely used in industry to promote a range of chemical reactions. Finding ways to minimize the consumption of expensive catalytic materials, however, remains a critical challenge. Researchers in Japan have now developed a nanostructured catalyst that makes extremely efficient use of trace amounts of catalytic palladium.

Cobalt catalysts allow researchers to duplicate complicated steps of photosynthesis

January 13, 2014 4:19 pm | News | Comments

Humans have for ages taken cues from nature to build their own devices, but duplicating the steps in the complicated electronic dance of photosynthesis remains one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for chemists. Currently, the most efficient methods we have for making fuel from sunlight and water involve rare and expensive metal catalysts. However, that is about to change.

The play-by-play of energy conversion

January 9, 2014 9:53 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory report that, for the first time, a comprehensive set of tools is available for exploring correlations among the morphological, structural, electronic and chemical properties of catalytic materials under working conditions. Two recent studies have used microscopy and spectroscopy to catch custom-built catalysts in action.

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A cheaper method of storing solar energy

January 8, 2014 9:45 am | News | Comments

By replacing platinum with molybdenum in photoelectrochemical cells, scientists from two Swiss labs have developed a cheaper and scalable technique that can greatly improve hydrogen production through water splitting as a means of storing solar energy.

Batteries as they are meant to be seen

December 27, 2013 10:12 am | News | Comments

Life science researchers regularly use transmission electron microscopy to study wet environments. Now, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who are studying batteries have used the method to have applied it successfully to microscopically view electrodes while they are bathed in wet electrolytes, mimicking realistic conditions inside actual batteries.

Researchers split water into hydrogen, oxygen using light, nanoparticles

December 16, 2013 9:48 am | News | Comments

Scientists from the Univ. of Houston have found a catalyst that can quickly generate hydrogen from water using sunlight, potentially creating a clean and renewable source of energy. Photocatalytic water-splitting experiments have been tried since the 1970s, but this is the first to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at a high energy conversion efficiency without co-catalysts or sacrificial chemicals.

Researchers discover a potential catalyst substitute for platinum

December 13, 2013 4:16 pm | News | Comments

Today’s fuel cells require costly platinum as a catalyst for the reaction that forms water from hydrogen and oxygen. A research team inspired by nature to develop an alternative catalyst has designed a material consisting of organic molecules as well as iron or manganese on a metallic substrate. These materials are less costly and more easily available than platinum.

Designing a better catalyst for solar-powered hydrogen production

December 3, 2013 12:58 pm | News | Comments

Hydrogen is a “green” fuel that burns cleanly and can generate electricity via fuel cells. One way to sustainably produce hydrogen is by splitting water molecules using the renewable power of sunlight, but scientists are still learning how to control and optimize this reaction with catalysts. At the National Synchrotron Light Source, a research group has determined key structural information about a potential catalyst.

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Process holds promise for production of synthetic gasoline

December 3, 2013 7:45 am | News | Comments

A chemical system developed by researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago can efficiently perform the first step in the process of creating syngas, gasoline and other energy-rich products out of carbon dioxide. A novel “co-catalyst” system using inexpensive, easy-to-fabricate carbon-based nanofiber materials efficiently converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a useful starting material for synthesizing fuels.

Scientists identify new catalyst for cleanup of nitrites

November 26, 2013 7:41 am | News | Comments

Chemical engineers at Rice Univ. have found a new catalyst that can rapidly break down nitrites, a common and harmful contaminant in drinking water that often results from overuse of agricultural fertilizers. Nitrites and their more abundant cousins, nitrates, are inorganic compounds that are often found in both groundwater and surface water. The compounds are a health hazard.

Copper promises cheaper, sturdier fuel cells

November 22, 2013 11:01 am | News | Comments

Converting solar energy into storable fuel remains one of the greatest challenges of modern chemistry. Chemists have commonly tried to use indium tin oxide (ITO) because it has transparency, but it also expensive and rare. Researchers at Duke Univ. has created something they hope can replace ITO: copper nanowires fused in a see-through film.

Enhancing lithium-ion battery performance

November 20, 2013 9:41 am | News | Comments

Scientists worldwide are seeking ways to improve the power density, durability and overall performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Researchers in Japan now report an advance in Li-ion battery technology that yields a significantly higher-performing battery. The difference is a cathode positive electrode of lithium cobalt oxide in which the compound's individual grains are aligned in a specific orientation.

Scientists create low-cost, long-lasting water splitter from silicon and nickel

November 15, 2013 11:10 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. researchers have developed an inexpensive device that uses light to split water into oxygen and clean-burning hydrogen. The goal is to supplement solar cells with hydrogen-powered fuel cells that can generate electricity when the sun isn't shining or demand is high.

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Professor invents a flexible battery

November 5, 2013 2:33 pm | by Robert Florida, NJIT | News | Comments

Researchers at NJIT have developed a flexible battery made with carbon nanotubes that could potentially power electronic devices with flexible displays. According to its developers, this battery can be made as small as a pinhead or as large as a carpet in a living room.

Bioelectrochemical systems: Electricity generators of the future?

October 28, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

Billions of euros are spent treating trillions of liters of wastewater every year, consuming substantial amounts of energy. However, this wastewater could act as a renewable resource, saving significant quantities of energy and money, as it contains organic pollutants which can be used to produce electricity, hydrogen and high-value chemicals, such as caustic soda.

Gold nanoparticles give an edge in recycling carbon dioxide

October 25, 2013 8:00 am | News | Comments

By tuning gold nanoparticles to just the right size, researchers from Brown Univ. have developed a catalyst that selectively converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, an active carbon molecule that can be used to make alternative fuels and commodity chemicals.

Futuristic copper foam batteries get more bang for the buck

October 24, 2013 8:39 am | News | Comments

Amy Prieto, a chemist at Colorado State Univ. leads a start-up company with the goal of developing a lithium-ion battery that should be safer, cheaper, faster-charging, and more environmentally friendly than conventional batteries now on the market. The key to the technology is copper foam which is easy to manufacture and has high power density.

Chemists use MRI to peek at temperatures of gases inside catalytic reactors

October 24, 2013 8:29 am | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Los Angeles chemists, for the first time, have employed magnetic resonance imaging to better measure the temperature of gases inside a catalytic reactor. The research, a major step toward bridging the gap between laboratory studies and industrial catalysis, could help improve the design and environmental impact of catalytic reactors.

Cheap metals can be used to make products from petroleum

October 21, 2013 2:30 pm | News | Comments

A new process developed at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago suggests that base metals may be used as catalysts in the manufacture of countless products made from petroleum-based raw materials. The metals, copper and iron, could potentially replace a rare and expensive metal catalyst currently required for the chemical process called borylation.

Why lithium-ion-batteries fail

October 18, 2013 9:48 am | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Materials in lithium ion battery electrodes expand and contract during charge and discharge. These volume changes drive particle fracture, which shortens battery lifetime. A group of scientists has quantified this effect for the first time using high-resolution 3D movies recorded using x-ray tomography at the Swiss Light Source.

Dow Chemical sells unit for $500 million

October 11, 2013 8:39 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Dow Chemical Co. is selling its global polypropylene licensing and catalysts business to W.R. Grace & Co. for $500 million. The sale includes Dow Chemical's polypropylene catalysts manufacturing plant in Norco, La., and customer contracts, licenses, intellectual property and inventory.

Small-molecule catalyst does the work of many enzymes

October 4, 2013 7:49 am | News | Comments

Researchers report that they have created a man-made catalyst that is an “enzyme mimic.” Unlike most enzymes, which act on a single target, the new catalyst can alter the chemical profiles of numerous types of small molecules. The catalyst—and others like it—will greatly speed the process of drug discovery, the researchers say.

Spinning CDs to clean sewage water

September 24, 2013 8:46 am | News | Comments

By coating compact disks in photocatalytic compounds and spinning them to clean water, scientists in Taiwan have found a potential new use for old music CDs. The disks, equipped with tiny zinc oxide nanorods, are able to break down more than 95% of the contaminants in methyl orange dye, a benchmark organic compound for testing photocatalytic reactions.

Fuel-efficient cars, planes could be cheaper with magnesium drawn from ocean

September 20, 2013 1:03 pm | News | Comments

Magnesium is a lightweight metal used in cars and planes to improve their fuel efficiency. But it currently requires a lot of energy and money to produce the metal. Engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is developing a new production method that would be 50% more energy efficient than the United States' current production process.

Fuel-efficient cars, planes cheaper with magnesium drawn from ocean

September 20, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

A lightweight metal that reduces fuel use in cars and planes could be extracted from the ocean through a unique process being developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The process could ultimately make fuel-efficient transportation more affordable and expand the American magnesium market.

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