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New catalyst could replace platinum for automotive applications

July 3, 2013 9:46 am | News | Comments

The research team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea has developed an inexpensive and scalable bio-inspired composite electrocatalyst, designed using iron phthalocyanine, a macrocyclic compound, anchored to single-walled carbon nanotubes. Under certain conditions, the new catalyst has a higher electrocatalytic activity than platinum-based catalysts, and better durability during cycling.

Diamond catalyst shows promise in breaching age-old barrier

July 1, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

There are a lot of small molecules people would like to convert to something useful. The current process for reducing nitrogen to ammonia is done under extreme conditions, and there is an enormous barrier to overcome to get a final product. Breaching that barrier more efficiently and reducing the huge amounts of energy used to convert nitrogen to ammonia has been a grail for the agricultural chemical industry, until now.

Iron replaces heavy metals, making hydrogenation greener

June 28, 2013 2:10 pm | News | Comments

Hydrogenation is a chemical process used in a wide range of industrial applications, from food products to petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. The process typically involves the use of heavy metals, such as palladium or platinum, which, though efficient, are expensive and can be toxic. However, researchers have discovered way to use iron as a catalyst for hydrogenation.

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New type of nanosheet offers fast pollutant degradation

June 17, 2013 6:56 pm | News | Comments

Waste from textile and paint industries often contains organic dyes such as methylene blue as pollutants. Photocatalysis is an efficient means of reducing such pollution, and molybdenum trioxide catalyzes this degradation. Researchers in India now report four methods to produce nanosheets made of very few layers of molybdenum trioxide, which are more efficient than their bulk counterparts.

Polymer-coated catalyst protects "artificial leaf"

June 17, 2013 6:42 pm | News | Comments

Electrolysis is often used to produce hydrogen that can be used for a storable fuel. Modified solar cells with highly efficient architecture can use this method to obtain hydrogen from water with the help of catalysts. But these solar cells rapidly corrode in aqueous electrolytes. By embedding the catalysts in an electrically conducting polymer, researchers have prevented this corrosion while maintaining competitive efficiency.

The science of sculpture, nano-style

June 14, 2013 9:53 am | by Angela Herring, Northeastern University | News | Comments

Nanoscopic crys­tals of sil­icon assem­bled like sky­scrapers on wafer-scale sub­strates are being intensely studied as a possible breakthrough in highly efficient battery technologies. A researcher at Northeastern University has been using computational to understand the atomic-scale interactions between the growth of nanowires and new development in this area of technology: alloyed metal droplets.

Halogenated graphene may replace platinum in low-cost fuel cells

June 10, 2013 10:56 am | News | Comments

The research team of Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology paved a new way to affordable fuel cells with efficient metal-free electrocatalysts using edge-halogenated graphene nanoplatelets. The research team, for the first time, reportedly synthesized a series of edge-selectively halogenated graphene nanoplatelets by ball-milling graphite flake in the presence of chlorine, bromine or iodine, respectively.

The dance of the atoms

June 10, 2013 9:41 am | News | Comments

Catalysts can stop working when atoms on the surface of those materials start moving. At the Vienna University of Technology, this “dance” of the atoms has been observed and explained: A certain type of molecule initiates a clustering process, which causes the catalyst atoms, like palladium, to ball together and disappear from contact with the surrounding gas.

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New boron-silicon electrode could boost lithium-ion battery capacity

June 6, 2013 2:04 pm | News | Comments

Silicon can accept ten times more lithium than the graphite used in the electrodes in lithium-ion batteries, but silicon also expands, shortening electrode life. Looking for an alternative to pure silicon, scientists in Germany have now synthesized a novel framework structure consisting of boron and silicon, which could serve as electrode material.

Catalyst could jumpstart e-cars, green energy

June 4, 2013 1:08 pm | News | Comments

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have designed a new type of nanostructured-carbon-based catalyst that could pave the way for reliable, economical next-generation batteries and alkaline fuel cells, providing for practical use of wind- and solar-powered electricity, as well as enhanced hybrid electric vehicles.

Ultraselective process discovered to make valuable chemical from biomass

May 29, 2013 7:29 am | News | Comments

Chemical engineering researchers Wei Fan, Paul Dauenhauer, and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report that they’ve discovered a new chemical process to make p-xylene, an important ingredient of common plastics, at 90% yield from lignocellulosic biomass, the highest yield achieved to date.

Platinum nanoparticles may keep fruit fresh longer

May 13, 2013 8:16 am | News | Comments

Ripening fruit, vegetables, and flowers release ethylene, which works as a plant hormone. Ethylene accelerates ripening, so other unripened fruit also begins to ripen—fruit and vegetables quickly spoil and flowers wilt. researchers in Japan have now introduced a new catalytic system for the fast and complete degradation of ethylene. This could keep the air in warehouses ethylene-free, keeping perishable products fresh longer.

Scientists detect residue hindering efficiency of solar cells

May 6, 2013 7:32 am | News | Comments

A team from Argonne National Laboratory has worked for years to develop a new type of solar cell known as organic photovoltaics (OPVs). Because of their potential to reduce costs for both fabrication and materials, OPVs could be much cheaper to manufacture than conventional solar cells and have a smaller environmental impact as well. However, they aren’t as efficient as conventional solar cells due to one limitation.

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Mysterious catalyst explained

May 1, 2013 9:01 am | by Julia Weiler, Ruhr University Bochum | News | Comments

Methanol to formaldehyde: This reaction is the starting point for the synthesis of many everyday plastics. Using catalysts made of gold particles, however, formaldehyde could be produced without the environmentally hazardous waste generated in conventional methods. But just how a gold catalyst could work has only recently been discovered by researchers. 

New battery design could help solar and wind power the grid

April 24, 2013 3:58 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid. The developers believe their new membrane-free battery, based on lithium and sulfur, may be the best yet designed to regulate alternative energies.

Recipe for low-cost, biomass-derived catalyst for hydrogen production

April 24, 2013 8:06 am | News | Comments

In recently published online paper, researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory describe details of a low-cost, stable, effective catalyst that could replace costly platinum in the production of hydrogen. The catalyst, made from renewable soybeans and abundant molybdenum metal, produces hydrogen in an environmentally friendly, cost-effective manner, potentially increasing the use of this clean energy source.

Black nanoparticles could play key role in clean energy photocatalysis

April 15, 2013 8:32 am | News | Comments

A unique atomic-scale engineering technique for turning low-efficiency photocatalytic “white” nanoparticles of titanium dioxide into high-efficiency “black” nanoparticles could be the key to clean energy technologies based on hydrogen. Samuel Mao leads the development of a technique for engineering disorder into the nanocrystalline structure of the semiconductor titanium dioxide.

Surface diffusion plays role in defining the shape of catalytic nanoparticles

April 11, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

Controlling the shapes of nanometer-sized catalytic and electrocatalytic particles made from noble metals such as platinum and palladium may be more complicated than previously thought. Using systematic experiments, researchers have investigated how surface diffusion—a process in which atoms move from one site to another on nanoscale surfaces—affects the final shape of the particles.

“Artificial leaf” gains ability to self-heal damage, produce energy from dirty water

April 9, 2013 5:47 am | News | Comments

Another innovative feature has been added to the world’s first practical “artificial leaf,” making the device even more suitable for providing people in developing countries and remote areas with electricity, scientists reported at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting & Exposition this week. It gives the leaf the ability to self-heal damage that occurs during production of energy.

Tortuous paths hamper ion transport

April 9, 2013 5:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have used X-ray tomography to screen lithium-ion battery electrodes and have reconstructed these microstructures in high resolution. The flow behavior of the lithium ions, they have found, can be described by what is known as tortuosity. To put it simply, the more twisted the path of the ions through the electrode, the more slowly the battery is charged or discharged.

Light may recast copper as chemical industry "holy grail"

March 29, 2013 8:50 am | News | Comments

Wouldn't it be convenient if you could reverse the rusting of your car by shining a bright light on it? It turns out that this concept works for undoing oxidation on copper nanoparticles, and it could lead to an environmentally friendly production process for an important industrial chemical, University of Michigan engineers have discovered.

Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries

March 25, 2013 12:21 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

According to recent research at Rice University, vanadium oxide and graphene may be a key new set of materials for improving lithium-ion storage. Ribbons created at Rice from these two materials are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Initial capacity remains at 90% or more after more than 1,000 cycles.

Catalyst in a teacup: New approach to chemical reduction

March 25, 2013 10:26 am | News | Comments

Taking their inspiration from Nature, scientists at the University of New South Wales have developed a new method for carrying out chemical reduction—an industrial process used to produce fuels and chemicals that are vital for modern society. Their catalyst-based approach has the big advantages that it uses cheap, replenishable reagents and it works well at room temperature and in air—so much so, it can even be carried out safely in a teacup.

Research shows chemical reaction in real time

March 15, 2013 7:57 am | News | Comments

The ultrafast, ultrabright X-ray pulses of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) have enabled unprecedented views of a catalyst in action, an important step in the effort to develop cleaner and more efficient energy sources. Scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory used LCLS, together with computerized simulations, to reveal surprising details of a short-lived early state in a chemical reaction occurring at the surface of a catalyst sample.

MIT researchers develop solar-to-fuel roadmap for crystalline silicon

March 5, 2013 11:12 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Bringing the concept of an “artificial leaf” closer to reality, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has published a detailed analysis of all the factors that could limit the efficiency of such a system. The new analysis lays out a roadmap for a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and could quickly lead to the production of a practical, inexpensive and commercially viable prototype.

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