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Researchers discover less expensive low-temperature catalyst for hydrogen purification
Date:9/23/2010

onal resources, including the UW-Madison Division of Information Technology and the Center for High-Throughput Computing, as well as an ultrafast 10G data network, to model the new catalyst, atom by atom. "There is no experimental way that you can look at the atoms 'at work'that is, while the reaction is happening," says Mavrikakis. "You need to start talking about individual atoms, which you can see with the highest-resolution electron microscopesbut not during the reaction. So you can only suggest that perhaps these atoms are active, but there is no way to substantiate it unless you put an atomic-scale quantum-mechanical model together and come up with a more realistic and well-founded suggestion about what is responsible for making this catalyst so active."

Although platinum is among the most expensive catalytic materials, the new catalyst contains only trace amounts of platinum, yet is robust and effective at low temperatures. Essentially, its structure is a series of small "clusters" comprising only a few atoms, each in a specific arrangement. Each cluster is composed of one or a few a platinum atoms surrounded by a mixture of oxygen, hydroxyl and potassium atoms and is "seated" on the standard aluminum or silica support.

The researchers say the advance is important in part because, through a combination of experiments and first-principles theory, the work reveals a new type of active site for a specific, very important chemical reaction. "Most of the time, people are happy to say, 'Well, we've found a material. It works for a given application,'" says Mavrikakis.

In this case, says Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, the team took the next step to determine how and why the catalyst works. "If we want to move to the next stage with cheaper materials that are doing the specific chemical transformations, we need to understand the fundamentals," she says.


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Contact: Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos
mflytzan@tufts.edu
617-627-3048
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

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