CBES research unveils new method for creating highly active catalysts
A Northwestern University research team has developed a new method for making highly desirable catalysts from metal nanoparticles that could lead to better fuel cells, among other applications. The researchers, who were supported by SQI's Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES), also discovered the method can take spent catalysts and recycle them into active catalysts.
The gem-shaped catalysts, made mainly of precious metals, contain 24 different faces that present atoms at the surface in ways that make them 20 times faster than commercial catalysts. Basic metal precursors are formed into those desirable structures through the use of heat and stabilizing trace elements.
In the study, published in Science, the method worked with five monometallic nanoparticles and a library of bimetallic compositions featuring metals such as platinum, cobalt and nickel.
“Many of these precious metals are responsible for catalyzing some of the most important chemical transformations used in the chemical, oil and fuel cell industries,” said corresponding author Chad Mirkin, a CBES senior investigator. “We not only can prepare commercially desirable catalysts, but we can recycle used fuel cell catalysts into the most active forms.
“Catalysts slowly degrade over time and change, so the fact that we can reclaim and reactivate these catalysts made of expensive materials is extremely valuable.”