The scientific discovery could one day serve as the foundation for creating a wide range of consumer products from biorenewable carbon feedstocks, as opposed to the petroleum-based chemicals currently being used as common building blocks for commodities such as cosmetics, plastics, pharmaceuticals and fuels.
The researchers' paper on the subject — "Reactivity of the Gold/Water Interface During Selective Oxidation Catalysis" — appears in the October issue of the journal Science.
The U.Va. researchers have shown that gold – the most inert of all metals – has high catalytic reactivity when placed in alkaline water. They studied the mechanism for oxidizing ethanol and glycerol into acids, such as acetic acid and glyceric acid, which are used in everything from food additives to glues, by using gold and platinum as catalysts.
"We've shown that by better understanding the oxidation chemistry on gold and other metal catalysts, we can begin to outline a path for developing a range of different reactions needed to transition from a petroleum-based chemical industry to one that uses biorenewable carbon feedstocks," said Davis, principal investigator on the research paper and professor and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering in U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
By using water to help oxidize the alcohols with oxygen in the air as opposed to using expensive inorganic oxidants and harmful organic solvents, the growing field of biorenewable chemicals aims to offer a more sustainable, environmentally safe alternative to traditional petrochemical processes.
Until the completion of the U.Va. group's research, it wasn't fully understood how water can play an important role in the oxidation catalysis of alcohols. In the past, catalysis in water hasn't been a major issue for the chemical industry: Because petroleum and many petroleum products aren't water-soluble, water hasn't generally been considered to be a useful solvent.
The researchers, all from the Department of Chemical Engineering in U.Va.'s Engineering School, combined concepts in electrochemistry and catalysis to uncover the critical factors in the oxidation of alcohols to chemical intermediates.
The research also required merging experimental lab work led by Davis with Neurock's expertise in the theory of catalytic chemistry. Graduate students Bhushan N. Zope and David D. Hibbitts were essential members of the investigative teams.
REPORTERS AND EDITORS: To arrange interviews with Robert J. Davis and Matthew Neurock at the University of Virginia, contact Zak Richards at 434-924-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zak Richards | Newswise Science News
127 at one blow...
18.01.2017 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere
How gut bacteria can make us ill
18.01.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Information Technology
18.01.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation