US researchers say they have developed a synthetic catalyst that produces chemicals much the way enzymes do in living organ.
In a paper published in the journal Nature Catalysis, the team from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory says its discovery could lead to industrial catalysts capable of producing methanol using less energy and at a lower cost.
Methanol has a variety of applications, and there is a growing demand for its use as a fuel with lower emissions than conventional gasoline.
“We took our inspiration from nature,” says Stanford’s Matteo Cargnello. “We wanted to mimic the function of natural enzymes in the laboratory using artificial catalysts to make useful compounds.”
The researchers designed a catalyst made of nanocrystals of palladium, a precious metal, embedded in layers of porous polymers tailored with special catalytic properties. And it worked well.
“The exciting part is that we can apply these materials to lots of systems, helping us better understand the details of the catalytic process and taking us one step closer to artificial enzymes,” says Cargnello.
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