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The Lead

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...

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...

Molecular shuttle speeds up hydrogen production

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

A research team in Europe has achieved...

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Copper foam turns CO2 into useful chemicals

August 13, 2014 8:21 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A catalyst made from a foamy form of copper has vastly different electrochemical properties from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide, a new study shows. The research, by scientists in Brown Univ.’s Center for the Capture and Conversion of CO2, suggests that copper foams could provide a new way of converting excess CO2 into useful industrial chemicals.

NC State partners with Bio2Electric on new catalyst technology

August 13, 2014 8:11 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

North Carolina State Univ. is part of a project team that is researching and developing new catalyst technology to produce the commercially important chemicals ethylene and propylene from natural gas. The project lead, Bio2Electric, LLC, dba EcoCatalytic Technologies, is collaborating with North Carolina State Univ., among other industry partners, to develop the new catalyst technologies.

Creating a GPS for aluminum ions

August 12, 2014 7:27 am | News | Comments

Zeolites used extensively in industry are promising catalysts that turn biomass into transportation fuels, but the activity and stability of this class of materials is challenging to understand and predict. Employing a combination of methods devised at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Swiss Light Source, scientists were able to determine the distribution of aluminum ions in structural variants of zeolites.

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Water’s reaction with metal oxides opens doors for researchers

August 11, 2014 8:00 am | by Scott Gordon, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

A multi-institutional team has resolved a long-unanswered question about how two of the world’s most common substances interact. In a paper published recently in Nature Communications, an international team reported fundamental discoveries about how water reacts with metal oxides. The paper opens doors for greater understanding and control of chemical reactions in fields ranging from catalysis to geochemistry and atmospheric chemistry.

Researchers close in on pure lithium anode

July 31, 2014 4:15 pm | by Andrew Myers, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

In a recent paper, a team at Stanford Univ. which includes materials science expert Yi Cui and 2011 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year Steven Chu report that they have taken a big step toward accomplishing what battery designers have been trying to do for decades: design a pure lithium anode.

Chemists develop technology to produce clean-burning hydrogen fuel

July 14, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Rutgers Univ. researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel. The new catalyst is based on carbon nanotubes and may rival cost-prohibitive platinum for reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Oxygen extends graphene’s reach

July 11, 2014 1:05 pm | News | Comments

The addition of elements to the surface of graphene can modify the material’s physical and chemical properties, potentially extending the range of possible applications. Recently performed theoretical calculations at RIKEN in Japan show that the addition of oxygen to graphene on copper substrates results in enhanced functionalization. The resulting structure, known as an enolate, make support applications that require catalytic response.

Chemists develop novel catalyst with two functions

July 9, 2014 8:47 am | by Dr. Julia Weiler, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

A new type of catalyst, based on carbon, can facilitate two opposite reactions: electrolysis of water and combustion of hydrogen with oxygen. This bi-functionality, developed by researchers in Germany, is made possible from its construction: manganese-oxide or cobalt-oxide nanoparticles which are embedded in specially modified carbon, then integrated with nitrogen atoms in specific positions.

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Using sand to improve battery performance

July 8, 2014 7:43 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have used a quartz-rich material to fabricate a lithium-ion battery that outperforms the current industry standard by three times. This key material? Sand. Through a heating process with salt and magnesium, the scientists created a porous nano-silicon sponge that greatly increases active surface area.  

Highly reactive gold carbene complex shines in emerald green

July 8, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

With a chemical “trick”, scientists in Germany have succeeded in isolating a stable gold carbene complex. Experts have been proposing gold carbenes as essential short-lived intermediates in catalytic reactions, but they elude study because of their high reactivity. Chemist Prof. Dr. Bernd F. Straub and his team are the first to have created the basis for directly examining the otherwise unstable gold-carbon double bond.

Water-cleanup catalysts tackle biomass upgrading

June 26, 2014 12:33 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. chemical engineer Michael Wong has spent a decade amassing evidence that palladium-gold nanoparticles are excellent catalysts for cleaning polluted water, but even he was surprised at how well the particles converted biodiesel waste into valuable chemicals.

A new solution for storing hydrogen fuel

June 11, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Turning the “hydrogen economy” concept into a reality, even on a small scale, has been a bumpy road, but scientists are developing a novel way to store hydrogen to smooth out the long-awaited transition away from fossil fuels. Their report on a new solid, stable material that can pack in a large amount of hydrogen that can be used as a fuel appears in Chemistry of Materials.

Charging portable electronics in 10 minutes

June 10, 2014 3:09 pm | by Sean Nealon, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a 3-D, silicon-decorated, cone-shaped carbon-nanotube cluster architecture for lithium ion battery anodes that could enable charging of portable electronics in 10 minutes. It also increases cell capacity and reduces size and weight by 40%.

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Designing ion “highway systems” for batteries

June 10, 2014 2:19 pm | News | Comments

Since the early 1970s, lithium has been the most popular element for batteries because of it’s low weight and good electrochemical potential. But it is also highly flammable. Researchers have recently married two traditional theories in materials science that can explain how the charge dictates the structure of the material. And using this they may be able to move to other materials, such as block copolymers, for use in batteries.

Evolution of a bimetallic nanocatalyst

June 9, 2014 7:58 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Atomic-scale snapshots of a bimetallic nanoparticle catalyst in action have provided insights that could help improve the industrial process by which fuels and chemicals are synthesized from natural gas, coal or plant biomass. A multinational laboratory collaboration has taken the most detailed look ever at the evolution of platinum/cobalt bimetallic nanoparticles during reactions in oxygen and hydrogen gases.

Opening a wide window on the nano-world of surface catalysis

June 6, 2014 10:20 am | by Steven Powell, Univ. of South Carolina | News | Comments

Surface catalysts are notoriously difficult to study mechanistically, but scientists at two universities have recently shown how to get real-time reaction information from silver nanocatalysts that have long frustrated attempts to describe their kinetic behavior in detail. The key to the team's success was bridging a size gap that had represented a wide chasm to researchers in the past.

Ionic liquid boosts efficiency of carbon dioxide reduction catalyst

June 6, 2014 7:50 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Wouldn’t it be nice to use solar- or wind-generated electricity to turn excess carbon dioxide into fuels and other useful chemicals? The process would store up the intermittent solar or wind energy in a form that could be used when and where it was needed, including in transportation applications, all while getting rid of some greenhouse gas.

New reference to enable better petrochemical catalysts

May 29, 2014 11:51 am | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

When crude oil is refined to fuels and chemicals, catalysts such as zeolites. are at work making this process happen. Scientists have recently developed a reference parameter for the performance of this important class of catalysts, which can suffer from production hindrances if reaction side products clog pores or block active sites on the catalyst.

New nickel catalyst forms bioactive frameworks from low-cost phenol derivatives

May 27, 2014 12:23 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan have developed a new nickel catalyst with a “kabuto-like” structure that was found to catalyze the cross-coupling reaction between carbonyl compounds and readily available phenol derivatives, to form arylketones, which are found in many biologically active compounds. A kabuto is a helmet worn by Japanese samurai.

Graphene may make large scale electricity storage a reality

May 27, 2014 9:35 am | News | Comments

Soon after graphene’s isolation, early research already showed that lithium batteries with graphene in their electrodes had a greater capacity and lifespan than standard designs. At the Univ. of Manchester, U.K., where graphene was first isolated, researchers are working with more than 30 companies to advance technology in graphene-enabled energy storage, particularly in the area of lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors.

Metal-organic framework shows new talent

May 21, 2014 8:15 am | News | Comments

This gift from science just keeps on giving. Measurements taken at NIST show why a material already known to be good at separating components of natural gas also can do something trickier: help convert one chemical to another, a process called catalysis. The discovery is a rare example of a laboratory-made material easily performing a task that biology usually requires a complex series of steps to accomplish.

Chemists challenge conventional understanding of photocatalysis

May 21, 2014 8:13 am | by Iqbal Pittalwala, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Photocatalysis is a promising route to convert solar energy into chemical fuels, or to split water into molecular hydrogen. But viable photocatalysts, or promoters, for these applications are scarce. A team of chemists in California has come up with a model to explain this promoting effect that could shift the focus in the search for substitutes of the metals, and help identify better promoters for photocatalysis in the near future.

Writing is on the wall for air pollution thanks to air-cleansing poem

May 15, 2014 12:23 pm | News | Comments

A poet and a scientist at the Univ. of Sheffield in the U.K. have collaborated to create a catalytic poem called “In Praise of Air”. The poem is printed on material containing a formula invented at the university which is capable of removing nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere. According to its developers, the cheap technology could also be applied to billboards and advertisements alongside congested roads to cut pollution.

In the wake of high-profile battery fires, a safer approach emerges

May 14, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

As news reports of lithium-ion battery (LIB) fires in Boeing Dreamliner planes and Tesla electric cars remind us, these batteries, which are in everyday portable devices, like tablets and smartphones, have their downsides. Now, scientists have designed a safer kind of lithium battery component that is far less likely to catch fire and still promises effective performance.

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries

April 15, 2014 3:29 pm | News | Comments

The chemistry of lithium-ion batteries limits how much energy they can store, and one promising solution is the lithium-sulfur battery, which can hold as much as four times more energy per mass. However, problematic polysulfides usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, however, have developed a new powdery nanomaterial that could solve the issue.

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