Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Inspired by Audio Cassettes

Economical nanostructured iron–cobalt catalysts for the Fischer–Tropsch synthesis

Audio cassettes make the production process for fuels less expensive: To produce nanoparticles made of inexpensive iron oxide cores with a very thin cobalt shell, an international team of researchers modified a method developed for the production of magnetic audio tapes. As the researchers report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, their particles are easily accessible on a large scale, and are excellent Fischer–Tropsch catalysts for the production of good diesel fractions.

On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of Angewandte Chemie, a one-day symposium is held on March 12 with several Nobel laureates. Learn more and join the free webcast or recording at

The increasing importance of shale gas and natural gas is bringing a century-old process back into the limelight: The Fischer–Tropsch synthesis, an industrial process for the liquefaction of coal developed in 1925, involves the catalytic conversion of a carbon monoxide/hydrogen mixture (synthesis gas) into gaseous and liquid hydrocarbons. These days, it is used in some countries for the production of ultrapure synthetic fuels from coal or natural gas. Biomass is also a good feedstock for this process.

The success of this process depends entirely on the catalyst, whose active component can be iron or cobalt. Each of these metals has advantages and disadvantages and one is chosen over the other based on the properties of the gas feed. Most large firms use cobalt, the major disadvantage of which is its price.

But, since only the surface of the catalytic particles is involved, one alternative is using particles with a core made of a less expensive material covered with a thin layer of the expensive, active material. However, this requires both nanometric accuracy and a cost-effective, simple, and scalable process for producing the catalytic particles, to ensure that they will still be cheaper than pure cobalt.

A Dutch, French, and German team led by Gadi Rothenberg at the University of Amsterdam together with Total Gaz & Energies Nouvelles (Paris) has now met this challenge by inventing new core–shell catalysts, inspired by patents from the 1960s for producing audio cassettes. The magnetic tapes used in these cassettes were coated with cigar-shaped iron oxide particles covered with a thin cobalt layer. By modifying this process, the researchers succeeded in making the spherical particles needed for catalysis.

The production process involves the synthesis of iron oxide nanoparticles from an iron chloride solution. Addition of a cobalt nitrate solution causes a thin layer of cobalt oxide to coat the nanoparticles. This allows the researchers to produce particles with a diameter of about 10 nm, consisting of an 8 nm iron oxide core and a whisper-thin, 1 nm cobalt-rich shell. These particles were processed with an alumina support to make pellets. To activate the catalyst, the pellets were heated under a hydrogen atmosphere, selectively reducing the cobalt oxide to metallic cobalt.

Tests in Fischer–Tropsch reactors at Lille and Bayreuth shows that the resulting particles are effective and robust catalysts. The product composition shows that the iron is also participating in the catalysis. There is clearly an iron–cobalt cooperative effect that has not been investigated before.

About the Author
Gadi Rothenberg is Professor and Chair of Heterogeneous Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Amsterdam. His research centers on catalyst discovery and optimisation for bulk chemicals and sustainable energy solutions.

Author: Gadi Rothenberg, University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands),

Title: Design of Nanostructured Iron–Cobalt Fischer–Tropsch Catalysts
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article:

Gadi Rothenberg | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>