Commenting on the Science paper, Jeffrey Reimer, who chairs the UC Berkeley Chemical Engineering Department, said, The spatial and temporal distribution of reactants and products in heterogeneous systems has not been visited by researchers in recent years owing to the lack of quantitative measures in situ. So while the sophistication of mathematical modeling of such systems proceeds at the rate at which computational power increases, the relevance of such models is dubious since they cannot be compared with measurements other than bulk properties of temperature, conversion, etc. The methods and data presented in this paper portend a new era of measurement, modeling, and design for more efficient reactors.
Since nearly all manufacturing processes that involve chemistry start with a catalytic reaction, there is a premium on the design of new and better catalysts and catalytic reactors. This is especially true for the growing field of microfluidic chip technology. MRI and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), its sister technology, are among the most powerful analytic tools known to science and could be immensely valuable for characterizing catalytic reactors and reactions in microfluidic devices. However, the low sensitivity of conventional MRI/NMR techniques has limited their applicability to microscale catalysis research.
For the results reported in their Science paper, Pines, Bouchard and Burt were able to overcome the inherent low sensitivity of MRI/NMR through the use of parahydrogen.
MRI/NMR signals are made possible by a property found in the atomic nuclei of almost all molecules called spin,
|Contact: Lynn Yarris|
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory