Just because a model catalyst effectively drives a reaction in a well-controlled environment doesn’t mean it will work as well under more practical conditions. For years, scientists have strived to predict catalysts’ performance. In an ultrahigh vacuum model reactor, catalysts typically work at lower pressures and temperatures than in applied catalytic reactor studies.
Now, a team devised a way to bridge the gap between these two extremes. Using their approach, they can predict catalyst performance across a wider range of temperatures and pressures (Nature Catalysis, “Crossing the great divide between single-crystal reactivity and actual catalyst selectivity with pressure transients”).
The findings show that scientists can use fundamental surface science to predict behavior in applied catalytic reactor studies. The study is a stepping stone in designing efficient catalytic processes. Further, this work offers in-depth insight into a series of reactions that turn alcohols to higher-value chemicals.

Image Credit:  Ryan Chen, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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