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The Lead

Aerogel catalyst shows promise for fuel cells

March 2, 2015 7:54 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene nanoribbons formed into a 3-D aerogel and enhanced with boron and nitrogen are excellent catalysts for fuel cells, even in comparison to platinum, according to Rice Univ. researchers. A team led by materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and chemist James Tour made metal-free aerogels from graphene nanoribbons and various levels of boron and nitrogen to test their electrochemical properties.

New catalyst to create chemical building blocks from biomass

February 23, 2015 7:36 am | by Univ. of Tokyo | News | Comments

Univ. of Tokyo researchers have developed a novel selective catalyst that allows the creation of...

Researchers develop a cost-effective, efficient rival for platinum

February 18, 2015 10:39 am | by Aalto Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers succeeded in creating an electrocatalyst that is needed for storing electric energy...

Better catalysts, made-to-order

February 13, 2015 11:03 am | by Joe Rojas-Burke, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Most of our medicine, plastics and synthetic fibers wouldn't exist without catalysts. And yet...

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Precision growth of light-emitting nanowires

February 6, 2015 9:12 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A novel approach to growing nanowires promises a new means of control over their light-emitting and electronic properties. In a recent issue of Nano Letters, scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab demonstrated a new growth technique that uses specially engineered catalysts. These catalysts, which are precursors to growing the nanowires, have given scientists more options than ever in turning the color of light-emitting nanowires.

Potassium salt outperforms precious metals as a catalyst

February 5, 2015 8:18 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

A team of Caltech chemists has discovered a method for producing a group of silicon-containing organic chemicals without relying on expensive precious metal catalysts. Instead, the new technique uses as a catalyst a cheap, abundant chemical that is commonly found in chemistry labs around the world, potassium tert-butoxide, to help create a host of products ranging from new medicines to advanced materials.

Engineers use x-rays to illuminate catalysis, revise theories

January 21, 2015 9:11 am | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Many of today's most promising renewable energy technologies rely upon catalysts to expedite the chemical reactions at the heart of their potential. Catalysts are materials that enhance chemical reactions without being consumed in the process. For over a century, engineers across the world have engaged in a near-continual search for ways to improve catalysts for their devices and processes.

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New material, technique efficiently produce hydrogen, syngas fuel feedstock

January 15, 2015 8:00 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

A team of chemical engineering researchers has developed a technique that uses a new catalyst to convert methane and water into hydrogen and a fuel feedstock called syngas with the assistance of solar power. The catalytic material is more than three times more efficient at converting water into hydrogen gas than previous thermal water-splitting methods.

Catalyst process uses light for rapid polymerization

January 13, 2015 8:12 am | by Melissa Van De Werfhorst, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

A team of chemistry and materials science experts from Univ. of California, Santa Barbara and The Dow Chemical Company has created a novel way to overcome one of the major hurdles preventing the widespread use of controlled radical polymerization.

“Seeing” hydrogen atoms to unveil enzyme catalysis

January 7, 2015 11:03 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Enzymes are catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in living organisms and control many cellular biological processes by converting a molecule, or substrate, into a product used by the cell. For scientists, understanding details of how enzymes work is essential to the discovery of drugs to cure diseases and treat disorders.

A golden approach to low-cost fuel, chemical production

December 1, 2014 7:59 am | by Kim Thurler, Tufts Univ. | News | Comments

New catalysts designed and investigated by Tufts Univ. have the potential to greatly reduce processing costs in future fuels, such as hydrogen. The catalysts are composed of a unique structure of single gold atoms bound by oxygen to several sodium or potassium atoms and supported on non-reactive silica materials.

Gasoline from sawdust

November 26, 2014 8:45 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers at KU Leuven’s Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis have successfully converted sawdust into building blocks for gasoline. Using a new chemical process, they were able to convert the cellulose in sawdust into hydrocarbon chains. These hydrocarbons can be used as an additive in gasoline, or as a component in plastics.

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Versatile process efficiently converts biomass to liquid fuel

November 12, 2014 8:05 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process to convert all biomass into liquid fuel, and the method could make possible mobile processing plants. The researchers at Purdue Univ. filed a patent application on the concept in 2008 and have now demonstrated that it works in laboratory experiments.

Jet-fueled electricity at room temperature

November 5, 2014 7:41 am | by Aditi Risbud, Univ. of Utah Collee of Engineering | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah engineers developed the first room-temperature fuel cell that uses enzymes to help jet fuel produce electricity without needing to ignite the fuel. These new fuel cells can be used to power portable electronics, off-grid power and sensors. A study of the new cells appears online in ACS Catalysis.

“Swiss cheese” membrane with variable holes

October 31, 2014 10:01 am | News | Comments

A new membrane, developed scientists in the Netherlands, can be made more or less porous “on demand”. In this way, smart switching between “open” and “closed” is possible, which opens the way to innovative applications in biosensors, chemical analysis and catalysis.

Study: Graphene fragments speed up rate of chemical reactions

October 22, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Australia have discovered that nano-sized fragments of graphene have the ability to speed up the rate of chemical reactions. The finding is significant, say researchers, because it suggested that graphene might have potential applications in catalyzing chemical reactions of industrial importance.

New catalyst could improve biofuels production

October 17, 2014 9:36 am | by Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. (WSU) researchers have developed a new catalyst that could lead to making biofuels cheaply and more efficiently. The WSU researchers developed a mixture of two metals, iron along with a tiny amount of palladium, to serve as a catalyst to efficiently and cheaply remove oxygen.

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Cheap catalyst gets expensive accessory

October 15, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

Iron catalysts remove oxygen inexpensively, but are susceptible to rust or oxidation in biofuel production. Precious metals that resist corrosion are even less efficient at removing oxygen. But adding just a touch of palladium to the iron produces a catalyst that quickly removes oxygen atoms, easily releases the desired products, and doesn't rust, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State Univ.

Unique catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells synthesized in ordinary kitchen microwave oven

October 14, 2014 12:09 pm | by Ingrid Söderbergh, Umea Univ. | News | Comments

Swedish and Chinese researchers have recently shown how a unique nano-alloy composed of palladium nano-islands embedded in tungsten nanoparticles creates a new type of catalysts for highly efficient oxygen reduction, the most important reaction in hydrogen fuel cells. Their results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Ultra-fast charging batteries last 20 years, charge to 70% in 2 min

October 13, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a new type of lithium-ion battery in which the traditional graphite used for the anode has been replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. The new design allows the battery to endure more than 10,000 cycles, vs. about 500 recharge cycles for typical rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Platinum meets its match in quantum dots from coal

October 1, 2014 8:31 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene quantum dots created at Rice Univ. grab onto graphene platelets like barnacles attach themselves to the hull of a boat. But these dots enhance the properties of the mothership, making them better than platinum catalysts for certain reactions within fuel cells.

Cheap hydrogen fuel from the sun, without rare metals

September 30, 2014 1:27 pm | by Emmanuel Barraud, EPFL | Videos | Comments

Michael Grätzel’s laboratory in Switzerland is producing hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water. By combining a pair of solar cells made with a mineral called perovskite and low cost electrodes, scientists have obtained a 12.3% conversion efficiency from solar energy to hydrogen, a record using earth-abundant materials as opposed to rare metals.

On the road to artificial photosynthesis

September 26, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide that is driving global climate change could be harnessed into a renewable energy technology that would be a win for both the environment and the economy. That is the lure of artificial photosynthesis in which the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is used to produce clean, green and sustainable fuels. 

Nanotechnology to provide cleaner diesel engines

September 9, 2014 8:32 am | by Bertel Henning Jensen, Technical Univ. of Denmark | News | Comments

When it comes to diesel engine catalysts, which are responsible for cleansing exhaust fumes, platinum has unfortunately proved to be the only viable option. This has resulted in material costs alone accounting for half of the price of a diesel catalyst. Researchers in Denmark say they have developed a new way to manufacture catalysts that may result in a 25% reduction in the use of platinum.

Researchers observe the phenomenon of "lithium plating" during the charging process

September 3, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

When metallic lithium forms and deposits during the charging process in a lithium-ion battery, it can lead to a reduced battery lifespan and even short circuits. Using neutron beams, scientists have now peered into the inner workings of a functioning battery without destroying it. In the process, they have resolved this so-called lithium plating mystery.

Scientists learn to control reactions with rare-earth catalyst

August 28, 2014 9:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered they can control chemical reactions in a new way by creating different shapes of cerium oxide, a rare-earth-based catalyst. Their finding holds potential for refining fuels, decreasing vehicle emissions, producing commodity chemicals and advancing fuel cells and chemical sensors.

Solar fuels as generated by nature

August 25, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

A research team investigating an important cofactor in photosynthesis, a manganese-calcium complex which uses solar energy to split water into molecular oxygen, have determined the exact structure of this complex at a crucial stage in the chemical reaction. The new insights into how molecular oxygen is formed at this metal complex may provide a blueprint for synthetic systems that could store sunlight energy in chemical energy carriers.

Water leads to chemical that gunks up biofuels production

August 21, 2014 7:53 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. The study, which was reported online at the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.

Molecular shuttle speeds up hydrogen production

August 14, 2014 10:25 am | News | Comments

A research team in Europe has achieved significantly increase in the yield of hydrogen produced by the photocatalytic splitting of water. Their breakthrough in light-driven generation of hydrogen was achieved by using a novel molecular shuttle to enhance charge-carrier transport with semiconductor nanocrystals.

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