Currently, some 20 percent of the world's industrial production is based on catalysts molecules that can quicken the pace of chemical reactions by factors of billions. Oil, pharmaceuticals, plastics and countless other products are made by catalysts.
Many are hoping to make current catalysts more efficient, resulting in less energy consumption and less pollution. Highly active and selective nanocatalysts, for example, can be used effectively in efforts to break down pollution, create hydrogen fuel cells, store hydrogen and synthesize fine chemicals. The challenge to date has been developing a method for producing nanocatalysts in a controlled, predictable way.
In a move in this direction, Yu Huang, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and her research team have proposed and demonstrated a new approach to producing nanocrystals with predictable shapes by utilizing surfactants, biomolecules that can bind selectively to certain facets of the crystals' exposed surfaces.
Their new study can be found online in the journal Nature Chemistry.
At the nanoscale, the physical and chemical properties of materials depend on the materials' size and shape. The ultimate goal has been to rationally engineer materials to achieve programmable structures and predictable properties, thereby producing the desired functions. Yet shaped nanocrystals are still generally synthesized by trial-and-error, using non-specific molecules as surfactants a result of the inability to find appropriate molecules to control crystal formation.
Huang's team's innovative new work could change that, potentially leading to the ability to rationally produce nanocatalysts with desired shapes and, hence, catalytic properties.
"In our study, we were able to identify specific biomolecules peptide sequences, in our case which can recognize a desir
|Contact: Wileen Wong Kromhout|
University of California - Los Angeles