A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Nottingham has found that palladium may help produce new and sustainable ways of protecting the supply of precious metals as well as using and making molecules. The researchers discovered that the behavior of palladium didn’t match the standard characteristics that classify catalysts as being heterogeneous or homogeneous.
Normally, catalysts are defined as heterogeneous when reactions occur on the surface of a catalyst and homogeneous when the catalytic centers are mixed with reactive molecules. Chemists usually consider various factors when choosing the type of catalyst to use because heterogeneous catalysts are more reusable and durable while homogeneous ones are more active and selective.
The researchers studied the catalytic behavior of palladium atom nanoclusters in the reaction while styrene is undergoing cyclopropanation and observed that the metal defied the traditional classifications. The team of researchers, which was led by Jesum Alves Fernandes, utilized imaging and analytical methods to examine the dynamics, structure and chemical properties exhibited by those nanoclusters. The study findings may help unlock the full potentials of catalyzation in chemistry, which may lead to novel ways of using and making molecules (atom clusters) in the most energy-resilient and atom-efficient ways.
In a media statement, Fernandes stated that the researchers used a technique known as magnetron sputtering to make nanoclusters that could be used on various surfaces. This technique is usually used to make films or coatings. He explained that the metal cluster surfaces produced using this technique were highly accessible and active during chemical reactions, which led to extensive catalytic activity. Catalysts allow about 80% of industrial chemical processes that deliver various products, from agrochemicals such as crop protection and fertilizers to materials such as pharmaceuticals and polymers.
Fernandes believes that the high demand for catalysts rapidly depletes the international supply of some useful metals, including palladium, platinum and gold, which is why every atom needs to be used to its maximum potential. In his statement, the Propulsion Futures Beacon Nottingham Research Fellow added that exploiting metals in the form of nanoclusters was a good strategy for increasing the active surface area available for catalysts.
The researchers will be collaborating with a trio of other universities on a larger-scale program to conduct more studies on this, which may trigger the protection of several endangered chemical elements. The project is based on the fact that nanoclusters of metals are activated prior to reactions involving molecules that can be driven by electric potential, light or heat.
The study was published in the “Nature Communications” journal.
The fact that researchers are continuing to find better ways to utilize the existing mineral resources means that the pressure to exhaust the reserves in properties owned by companies such as First Energy Metals Ltd. (CSE: FE) (OTCQB: FEMFF) will not be as high as it would have been if mineral resources were used wastefully.
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