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New method for making tiny catalysts holds promise for air quality
Date:12/15/2010

ray pyrolysis (USP), developed in U. of I. chemistry professor Kenneth Suslick's lab in 2005. Suslick used a household humidifier to make fine mist from a carbon-rich solution, then directed the mist through an extremely hot furnace, which evaporated the water from each droplet and left tiny, highly porous carbon spheres.

Atkinson used USP to make his carbon spheres, but added an iron-containing salt to a carbon-rich sugar solution. When the mist is piped into the furnace, the heat stimulates a chemical reaction between the solution ingredients that creates carbon spheres with iron particles dispersed throughout.

"We were able to take advantage of Dr. Suslick's USP technique, and we are building upon it by simultaneously impregnating the porous carbons with metal nanoparticles," Atkinson said. "It's simple because it's continuous. We can isolate the carbon, add pores, and impregnate iron into the carbon spheres in a single step."

Another advantage of the USP technique is the ability to create materials to address particular needs. By fabricating the material from scratch, rather than trying to modify off-the-shelf products, scientists and engineers can develop materials for specific problem-solving scenarios.

"Right now, you take coal out of the ground and modify it. It's difficult to tailor it to solve a particular air quality problem," Rood said. "We can readily change this new material by how it's activated to tailor its surface area and the amount of impregnated iron. This method is simple, flexible and tailorable."

Next, the researchers will explore applications for the material. Rood and Atkinson have received two grants from the National Science Foundation to develop the carbon-iron spheres to remove nitric oxide, mercury, and dioxin from gas streams bioaccumulating pollutants that have caused concern as emissions from combustion sources.

Currently, the three pollutants can be dealt with separately by car
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Contact: Liz Ahlberg
eahlberg@illinois.edu
217-244-1073
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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