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Single Atom Alloy Found to be Effective Catalyst

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 02:04PM

Catalysts are critical for a large number of reactions that we rely on every day, and many more we will likely rely on in the future. When it comes to catalysts though, fairly often platinum is highly desirable, which is troublesome because of its rarity and thus its cost. That could change soon though, thanks to researchers at Tufts University.

Catalysts work by adding steps to a chemical reaction, but these steps require less energy to occur than the reaction otherwise needs. What the researchers discovered is that platinum mixed with copper creates a highly effective and inexpensive catalyst, if the amount of platinum is low enough. Carbon monoxide likes to find to platinum, which risks poisoning the reaction, so by keeping the amount of platinum low enough that single atoms of it are spread across the copper, the catalyst is most effective. At such low concentrations, these materials are known as single atom alloys.

The researchers found the new catalyst does a good job of splitting hydrogen molecules into hydrogen atoms, which is needed for hydrogenating butadiene, an impurity in propene streams, and continues to work well even under industrial conditions. Potentially other catalysts could be made by creating single atom alloys of copper and other precious metals.

Source: Tufts University

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