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New Fischer-Tropsch catalyst invented in Amsterdam

March 5, 2013 9:38 am | News | Comments

The Fischer-Tropsch process is used for producing fuels from synthesis gas, which in turn is made from natural gas, biomass, or coal. Large reserves of shale or natural gas now changing the world energy market have raised interest in this technology, but prior reactors have been too bulky. Inspired by patents from the 1960s audio cassette recording industry, University of Amsterdam chemists have recently developed a new Fischer-Tropsch catalyst that is significantly cheaper and more scalable.

Chemists build titanium dioxide nanoreactor

February 21, 2013 1:31 pm | News | Comments

Tiny particles of titanium dioxide are found as key ingredients in common products such as paint and toothpaste. When reduced to the nanoscale, these particle acquire catalytic ability. A team of chemists has recently developed a synthesis to produce these nanoparticles at room temperature in a polymer network. Their analysis has revealed the crystalline structure of the nanoparticles and is a major step forward in the development of polymeric nanoreactors.

First synthetic catalyst to use iron to split hydrogen gas

February 18, 2013 9:09 am | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

To make fuel cells more economical, engineers want a fast and efficient iron-based molecule that splits hydrogen gas to make electricity. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have recently reported the development of such a catalyst. Made from a synthetic molecule, it is the first iron-based catalyst that converts hydrogen directly to electricity, and it might help make those fuel cells less expensive.

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Sustainable new catalysts fueled by a single proton

February 13, 2013 1:35 pm | News | Comments

Chemists at Boston College have designed a new class of catalysts triggered by the charge of a single proton, the team reports in Nature. The simple organic molecules offer a sustainable and highly efficient platform for chemical reactions that produce sets of molecules crucial to advances in medicine and the life sciences.

New study describes role of carbon nanomaterials in catalysis

February 13, 2013 12:35 pm | News | Comments

A new review published by Wiley focuses on the recent progress in the theoretical and experimental efforts to obtain a deeper understanding of the effects of carbon nanostructure and surface functional groups on proton affinity, metal/CNF interactions, and electronic properties, as well as their catalytic consequences.

World’s smallest tunnels dug into graphite

January 23, 2013 5:26 pm | News | Comments

With a width of just a few nanometers, tiny tunnels recently created by researchers in Germany and the United States in graphite have been formed using heated nickel nanoparticles. Capillary action, aided by a hydrogen-to-methane gas conversion, has given scientists the basis for self-organized structuring of the interior. Nanoporous graphite could have many applications in medicine and battery technology.

Nanoscale “Goldilocks” phenomenon could improve biofuel production

January 15, 2013 4:37 pm | News | Comments

In a case of the Goldilocks story retold at the molecular level, scientists at Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University have discovered a new path to the development of more stable and efficient catalysts. The research team sought to create "nanobowls"—nanosized bowl shapes that allow inorganic catalysts to operate selectively on particular molecules.

Review: Rational nanostructure design has improved photocatalysis

January 9, 2013 10:11 am | News | Comments

Modern advances in well controlled fabrication of metal nanoparticles and their composites have assisted material scientists in the design and efficient utilization of desired catalysts, as is evidenced by explosive growth in the nanocatalysis field. A new review published in Advanced Energy Materials highlights the progress of nanocatalysis through rational design.

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Nanofibers clean sulfur from fuel

December 17, 2012 12:59 pm | News | Comments

Sulfur compounds in petroleum fuels have met their nanostructured match. University of Illinois researchers developed mats of metal oxide nanofibers that scrub sulfur from petroleum-based fuels much more effectively than traditional materials.

A low-cost route to ultrathin platinum films

December 13, 2012 8:14 am | News | Comments

A research group at NIST has developed a relatively simple, fast, and effective method of depositing uniform, ultrathin layers of platinum atoms on a surface. The new process exploits an unexpected feature of electrodeposition of platinum—if you drive the reaction much more strongly than usual, a new reaction steps in to shuts down the metal deposition process, allowing an unprecedented level of control of the film thickness.

A thin-skinned catalyst for chemical reactions

December 13, 2012 7:51 am | News | Comments

A chemical nanostructure developed by Boston College researchers behaves much like the pores of the skin, serving as a precise control for a typically stubborn method of catalysis that is the workhorse of industrial chemistry.

Sieve holds nanoparticles, acts as solar absorber

November 26, 2012 12:43 pm | News | Comments

Colloidal suspensions of metal nanoparticles in water passes too easily through commonly used macroporous polymeric membranes. To handle these nanofluids, researchers have built a membrane equipped functionalized proteins that can act as filters for nanoscaled particles in aqueous solutions. Such a nano-sieve could act as a catalyzer or could capture solar energy.

Gold nanoparticle catalyst that learns from enzyme in nature

November 15, 2012 12:25 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Japan have developed a high activity gold nanoparticle catalyst that simplifies the function of enzymes in capturing substances. This new type of catalyst mimics enzyme function on the surface of cell membranes, which capture molecules of designated lengths and shapes. The findings indicate that gold nanoparticles thus equipped could support biological activities as a catalyst in the reactions of the living body.

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Rust and water are used to store solar energy as hydrogen

November 13, 2012 9:44 am | News | Comments

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) tandem solar cells offer a way to produce hydrogen directly from water. But efforts to produce an efficient cell have only resulted in extremely expensive prototypes. Researchers in Switzerland have recently developed a PEC, however, that is made from inexpensive materials and achieves up to 16% efficiency.

Study offers new insights into catalytic activity of copper

November 9, 2012 12:38 pm | News | Comments

Catalysis is an incredibly valuable tool in the field of chemistry, but it typically requires precious metals that are both expensive and potentially harmful to the environment. Researchers in Sweden say they have discovered that copper, which is not typically known for its catalytic properties, had unexpectedly been responsible for catalytic activity as part of research into iron catalysts.

Researchers make strides toward selective oxidation catalysts

November 5, 2012 11:45 am | News | Comments

Oxide catalysts play an integral role in many chemical transformations. Greener, more efficient chemical processes would benefit greatly from solid oxide catalysts that are choosier about their reactants, but achieving this has prove a challenge. Now, a team of researchers have developed a straightforward and generalizable process for making reactant-selective oxide catalysts by encapsulating the particles in a sieve-like film that blocks unwanted reactants.

Researchers find potential building block for catalytic cycle

November 5, 2012 10:47 am | News | Comments

Through spectroscopic investigations on a hydrogen-producing enzyme, researchers in Germany have found that environment of the catalytic site acts as an electron reservoir in the enzyme. This finding means that the enzyme can produce hydrogen at a highly efficient rate and could be useful as a renewable energy source.

The hunt for electron holes: A molecular glance on solar water splitting

October 30, 2012 1:18 pm | News | Comments

Hydrogen production by solar water splitting in photoelectrochemical cells (PEC) has long been considered the holy grail of sustainable energy research. Iron oxide is a promising electrode material, and now an international team of researchers gained in-depth insights into the electronic structure of an iron oxide electrode, while it was in operation. This opens up new possibilities for an affordable hydrogen production from solar energy.

Building a better battery for renewable energy storage

October 29, 2012 10:49 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC | News | Comments

Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources reduce consumption of fossil fuels but also pose challenges to the electrical grid because their power generation fluctuates. A team of researchers at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a mix of materials that shows promise as a cost-effective alternative to standard batteries—able to quickly and efficiently charge and discharge their energy over thousands of charges, with no energy loss after 1,000 charges.

Can cobalt-graphene catalyst beat platinum?

October 17, 2012 7:44 am | News | Comments

Platinum works well as a catalyst in hydrogen fuel cells, but it has at least two drawbacks: It is expensive, and it degrades over time. Brown University chemists have engineered a cheaper and more durable catalyst using graphene, cobalt, and cobalt-oxide—the best nonplatinum catalyst yet.

The best of both catalytic worlds

October 10, 2012 2:14 pm | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have combined the best properties of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysts by encapsulating metallic nanoclusters within the branched molecular arms of dendrimers. The results are heterogenized homogeneous nanocatalysts that are sustainable and feature high reactivity and selectivity.

Catalytic converters like it hot

October 9, 2012 11:29 am | News | Comments

The tiny metal particles in catalytic converters that work to clean up vehicle emissions require a minimum temperature to function efficiently, and work poorly when cold. A new measuring method using photoemission electron microscopy has made it possible to examine many different types of these particles at the same time, shedding light on what exactly affects converter efficiency.

Improving performance of a solar fuel catalyst

October 4, 2012 5:17 am | News | Comments

Hydrogen gas that is created using solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has the potential to be a cost-effective fuel source if the efficiency of the catalysts used in the water-splitting process can be improved. By controlling the placement of key additives in an iron oxide catalyst, researchers from NIST have found that the final location of the dopants and the temperature at which they are incorporated into the catalyst crystal lattice determine overall catalytic performance in splitting water.

Simulations of metal-sulfide alloy unlocks secrets to solar-powered catalysts

September 26, 2012 6:06 pm | News | Comments

By modeling a cadmium sulfide–zinc sulfide alloy with special computational techniques, a Singapore-based research team has identified the key photocatalytic properties that enable this chemical duo to 'split' water molecules into a fuel, hydrogen gas. The breakthrough is significant because each of these semiconductors had previously been limited by their bandgap potential.

The inner world of complex catalysts

September 24, 2012 10:28 am | by Fabio Bergamin | News | Comments

Zeolites, porous materials used in commercial products such as cat litter and washing detergents, are attracting the attention of researchers hoping to design better catalysts. Chemical engineers in Switzerland recently brought to bear the latest imaging technologies to examine a newly developed zeolite catalyst applied in the chemical conversion of xylene. It represents one of the most complex organized porous materials known.

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