Argonne scientists improve catalyst efficiencies

August 21, 2013 |

In Illinois, for the past four years, Argonne chemist Chris Marshall and his colleagues at the Argonne-led Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT) have been searching for ways to improve the efficiency and selectivity of catalysts – precisely tailored chemicals that help to carry out a vast array of reactions.

One of the most notable discoveries that the IACT consortium has made involves the use of a technique called “overcoating,” in which scientists add a dome-like sheath of protective material on top of the metal catalyst.

Overcoating can prevent the degradation of the catalyst by a substance known as “supercritical water,” a phase of water that occurs under certain conditions in which it exhibits properties in between that of a liquid and a gas. Supercritical water quickly oxidizes the metal surface of a catalyst in a process similar to how a car rusts when it is left out in the rain.

In order to overcoat a catalyst, Argonne scientists use a method known as atomic layer deposition (ALD).  ALD allows researchers to deposit extremely thin and uniform sheets of material on different surfaces; typically these layers are only a few atoms thick.

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Category: Research

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