Catalysts are chemical matchmakers: They bring other chemicals close together, increasing the chance that they’ll react with each other and produce something people want, like fuel or fertilizer.
Since some of the best catalyst materials are also quite expensive, like the platinum in a car’s catalytic converter, scientists have been looking for ways to shrink the amount they have to use.
Now scientists have their first direct, detailed look at how a single atom catalyzes a chemical reaction. The reaction is the same one that strips poisonous carbon monoxide out of car exhaust, and individual atoms of iridium did the job up to 25 times more efficiently than the iridium nanoparticles containing 50 to 100 atoms that are used today.
The research team, led by Ayman M. Karim of Virginia Tech, reported the results in Nature Catalysis (“Identification of the active complex for CO oxidation over single-atom Ir-on-MgAl2O4 catalysts”).
Read more at nanowerk.com

Image Credit:    Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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