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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A new analytical theory has been developed at Purdue University that shows how to design experiments to study ways of controlling dendrite growth on electrodes in lithium-ion batteries. Using this approach, the researchers have shown theoretically how to control or eliminate the formation of these dendrites, which cause lithium-ion batteries to fail. The advance could help improve safety and might enable the batteries to be charged within a matter of minutes instead of hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.