Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

1 sponge-like material, 3 different applications

19.05.2009
A new sponge-like material that is black, brittle and freeze-dried (just like the ice cream astronauts eat) can pull off some pretty impressive feats.

Designed by Northwestern University chemists, it can remove mercury from polluted water, easily separate hydrogen from other gases and, perhaps most impressive of all, is a more effective catalyst than the one currently used to pull sulfur out of crude oil.

Hydrodesulfurization might be a mouthful, but it is also a widely used catalytic chemical process that removes sulfur from natural gas and refined petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel and jet fuels. Without the process, which is highly optimized, we'd be burning sulfur, which contributes to acid rain.

Scientists have tried to improve hydrodesulfurization, or HDS, but have made no progress. Many consider it an optimized process. The Northwestern researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at Western Washington University, report that their material is twice as active as the conventional catalyst used in HDS while at the same time being made of the same parts.

The material, cobalt-molybdenum-sulfur, is a new class of chalcogels, a family of material discovered only a few years ago at Northwestern. (Chalcogels are random networks of metal-sulfur atoms with very high surface areas.) The new chalcogel is made from common elements, is stable when exposed to air or water and can be used as a powder.

Details of the cobalt-molybdenum-sulfur chalcogel and its properties will be published online May 17 by the journal Nature Chemistry. This is the first report of chalcogels being used for catalysis and gas separation.

"I was surprised at the impressive activity of our catalyst, given how difficult it has been to improve HDS," said Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, the paper's senior author. "In principle, our catalyst could process and desulphurize twice as much crude oil as the same amount of conventional catalyst. We currently are conducting studies to see how the catalyst operates under more commercial conditions."

Kanatzidis, Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and doctoral student Santanu Bag make their catalyst using a method different from that of the conventional catalyst.

The Northwestern material is a gel made of cobalt, nickel, molybdenum and sulfur that then is freeze-dried, producing a sponge-like material with a very high surface area. (One cubic centimeter has approximately 10,000 square feet of surface area, or about half a football field.) It is this high surface area and the material's stability under catalytic conditions that make the cobalt-molybdenum-sulfur chalcogel so active.

The researchers also demonstrated that the new chalcogel soaks up toxic heavy metals from polluted water like no other material. The chalcogel removed nearly 99 percent of the mercury from contaminated water containing several parts per million. Mercury likes to bind to sulfur, and the chalcogel is full of sulfur atoms.

Two years ago, Kanatzidis and Bag reported a chalcogel that could remove mercury from liquid, but the chalcogel contained expensive platinum; the new chalcogel contains only inexpensive elements, with cobalt and nickel replacing the platinum. The cobalt and nickel link through the sulfur atoms of the thiomolybdate anions to create a three-dimensional porous network.

"We succeeded in doing something very difficult: eliminating the platinum and only using common materials to create a gel," said Kanatzidis. "We found the proper conditions to get the properties we wanted. The key was changing the solvent from water to formamide."

In addition to being a better HDS catalyst and a mercury sponge, the chalcogel also is very effective at gas separation. The researchers showed that the material easily removes carbon dioxide from hydrogen, an application that could be useful in the hydrogen economy.

The gas separation process takes advantage of the 'soft' sulfur atoms of the chalcogel's surface. These atoms like to interact with other soft molecules passing by, slowing them down as they pass through. Hydrogen, the smallest element, is a 'hard' molecule. It zips right through while softer molecules like carbon dioxide take more time.

The Nature Chemistry paper is titled "Spongy Chalcogels of Nonplatinum Metals Act as Effective Hydrodesulfurization Catalysts." In addition to Kanatzidis and Bag, the paper's other authors are chemistry professor Mark E. Bussell and graduate student Amy F. Gaudette of Western Washington University.

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>