Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Supported liquid metal catalysts – a new generation of reaction accelerators

13.09.2017

Catalysts are agents that initiate chemical reactions, speed them up or significantly increase the yield of the desired product. New and improved catalysts are thus considered the key to creating more sustainable and efficient production processes in the chemical industry. In a joint research project, five professors at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and their teams have recently discovered how to bypass the known drawbacks of the technical catalysts that are currently in use by means of a new material concept that makes the creation of significantly more efficient catalysts possible.

This new generation of catalysts employs liquid drops of metal alloy attached to porous carriers that are brought into contact with the gaseous reactants. The microscopically small drops of alloy are fluid because they contain a high proportion of gallium, an element with a very low melting point.


A diagram illustrating the processes at the catalytic surface of a liquid drop of gallium containing small amounts of palladium during the catalytic dehydrogenation of n-butane.

Image: FAU/Mathias Grabau and Florian Maier

At the same time, this high concentration of gallium ensures that the atoms of the dissolved secondary metal components are thoroughly dispersed: the individual metal atoms in solution within the gallium are responsible for the catalytic effect. The researchers have published their findings in the leading specialist journal Nature Chemistry (DOI: 10.1038/NCHEM.2822).

Supported liquid catalysts

Over the past decade, researchers at FAU have repeatedly been able to demonstrate their international preeminence in the field of catalyst material innovations. Catalytic Materials is consequently a key research area within the Cluster of Excellence Engineering of Advanced Materials (EAM) at FAU. Supported liquid catalysts have often been the focal point of interest for the FAU-based researchers.

These combine the benefits of customised molecular reaction accelerators with the advantage that they can be more readily separated from the product. In the concept outlined in the article published in Nature Chemistry, the use of metal alloys in supported liquid catalysts is described for the first time. In addition, it is also the first time that catalytic activity has been ascribed to liquid metal alloys.

Moreover, the initially tested material combinations have been found to significantly outperform standard technical catalysts that have taken years to develop. ‘It is particularly interesting that there is little to no deactivation of the supported metal complexes when carbon deposits form on them,’ says Professor Peter Wasserscheid.

‘It is deposits such as this that are the main cause of the deactivation of catalysts used for catalytic conversion at high temperatures by the petrochemical industry.’ The researchers were able to demonstrate this important effect in the case of the dehydration of butane.

The special structural nature of this new class of materials was discovered by four groups working in collaboration: microscopic analysis was undertaken by the team under Wolfgang Peukert, the teams of Hans-Peter Steinrück and Christian Papp completed the spectrographic analysis, Rainer Hock’s team was responsible for radiographic analysis while the corresponding calculations were undertaken by Andreas Görling and his colleagues.

Gallium: the secret of success

The element gallium plays a central role in this new class of materials. Gallium melts at around 30°C and has a boiling point of 2400°C. It possesses the unique ability of being able to dissolve almost all other metals. When it is exposed to air, ultra-thin layers of oxide form on the surface of gallium; however, these are reconverted back to the original element under the conditions obtained during many catalytic processes.

To date, the FAU-based researchers have achieved their spectacular results using palladium dissolved in gallium. They next intend to conduct further research to find out whether these extraordinary effects can also be obtained using non-precious metals dissolved in gallium and also whether the effects can be reproduced in connection with other chemical reactions.

‘Our calculations lead us to assume that single metal atoms dissolved in gallium can display totally different reactive characteristics from those that the same metal in crystalline form will usually exhibit,’ explains Andreas Görling. ‘This is why we are so fascinated by this new class of catalytic materials. We are convinced that with the help of supported alloy complexes, highly efficient and very cost-effective catalysts can be developed that have considerable potential with regard to industrial applications,’ adds Hans-Peter Steinrück.

The Cluster of Excellence EAM

The Cluster of Excellence EAM has been active in the research and development of new materials since 2007. The cluster which has 200 staff working across nine disciplines, will have received almost €73 million in funding to the end of 2017. EAM has achieved major advances in the development of new high-performance materials in the fields of catalysis, lightweight construction, nano-electronics, optics and photonics.

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Peter Wasserscheid
Tel.: +49 9131 85 27420
peter.wasserscheid@fau.de

Dr. Susanne Langer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.fau.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides
16.07.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht The secret sulfate code that lets the bad Tau in
16.07.2018 | American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>