Scanning electron micrograph of molybdenum disulfide produced by ultrasonic spray pyrolysis. Large pores expose catalytically active edge sites. Photo credit: S.E. Skrabalak & K.S. Suslick, UIUC
Transmission electron micrograph of molybdenum disulfide produced by ultrasonic spray pyrolysis. Dark fringes emphasize the moly-sulfide crystal edges. Photo credit: S.E. Skrabalak & K.S. Suslick, UIUC
Using a technique called ultrasonic spray pyrolysis, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created an improved catalyst for removing smelly sulfur-containing compounds from gasoline and other fossil fuels. The improved catalyst is a form of molybdenum disulfide, most commonly recognized as the black lubricant used to grease automobiles and machinery.
Molybdenum disulfide is made of long flat layers of molybdenum metal atoms sandwiched above and below by single atomic layers of sulfur. The interactions between sulfur-sulfur planes are weak, so they can easily slide past one another, providing excellent high-temperature lubrication.
Molybdenum disulfide’s other important commercial application is as a catalyst used by the petroleum industry to remove ecologically damaging sulfur-containing compounds in gasoline. When burned, these sulfur compounds cause the formation of acid rain.
James E. Kloeppel | University of Illinois
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