These nanoparticles are gems

US chemists report developing a new way to make catalysts from metal nanoparticles – and even recycle spent catalysts into active ones.

Called high-index facet nanoparticle catalysts, they are shaped like gems. 

Each particle has 24 different faces that present atoms at the surface in ways that make them more catalytically active than those currently available commercially, say the researchers from Northwestern University.

Writing in the journal Science, they describe their methodology, which involves taking basic metal precursors then using heat and stabilising trace elements to rapidly transform their shape into structures that are highly active catalytically. 

The method is a general one: the study shows it works with five monometallic nanoparticles and a library of bimetallic nanoparticles, spanning seven different metals, including platinum, cobalt and nickel.

Most importantly, it is fast and scalable, says research leader Chad Mirkin, and may not be far away from being available commercially. 

Catalysts are used to increase the rate of a chemical reaction and an important part of creating many products, including fuel cells. 

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