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The Discovery of Nanoclusters Will Protect Precious Metals

Scientists have created a new type of catalyst that will lead to new and sustainable methods of manufacturing and using molecules and protect the supply of precious metals.
A research team at the University of Nottingham has designed a new type of catalyst that combines features that were previously considered mutually exclusive and developed a process for large-scale manufacturing of metal nanoclusters.
In their new study published today in Nature Communications, they proved that the behavior of palladium nanoclusters does not conform to the orthodox characteristics that define catalysts as homogeneous or heterogeneous.
Traditionally, catalysts are divided into homogeneous phase (the catalytic center and reactant molecules are intimately mixed) and heterogeneous phase (the reaction occurs on the surface of the catalyst). Generally, chemists must make compromises when choosing one type or another, because homogeneous catalysts are more selective and active, while heterogeneous catalysts are more durable and reusable. However, the nanoclusters of palladium atoms seem to violate the traditional category, as demonstrated by studying their catalytic behavior in the cyclopropanation of styrene.
Catalysts support nearly 80% of industrial chemical processes that provide the most important ingredients in our economy, from materials (such as polymers) and drugs to agrochemicals including fertilizers and crop protection. The high demand for catalysts means that the global supply of many useful metals, including gold, platinum and palladium, is rapidly drying up. The challenge is to maximize each atom to its full potential. The use of metals in the form of nanoclusters is one of the most effective strategies to increase the active surface area available for catalysis. In addition, when the size of nanoclusters breaks through the nanoscale, the properties of the metal will change dramatically, leading to new phenomena that cannot be achieved on the macroscale.
The research team used analysis and imaging techniques to probe the structure, dynamics and chemical properties of nanoclusters to reveal the inner workings of this unusual catalyst at the atomic level.
The team’s discovery is the key to unlocking the full potential of chemical catalysis, leading to new ways to make and use molecules in the most atomically efficient and energy-resilient way.
The research was led by Dr. Jesum Alves Fernandes, a Nottingham researcher at the Faculty of Chemistry to advance the future beacon. He said: “We use the most direct method to make nanoclusters, just by using a fast beam to kick the atoms out of the bulk of the argon ions. ——A method called magnetron sputtering. Usually, this method is used to make coatings or thin films, but we have adjusted it to produce metal nanoclusters that can be deposited on almost any surface. Important The point is that the size of the nanoclusters can be precisely controlled by the following methods of experimental parameters, from a single atom to a few nanometers, so a series of uniform nanoclusters can be generated on demand within a few seconds.”
The team’s Green Chemicals Beacon postdoctoral researcher Dr. Andreas Weilhard added: “The surface of the metal clusters produced by this method is completely’bare’, so it has high activity and is easy to carry out chemical reactions, resulting in high catalytic activity.”
Professor Peter Licence, Director of the GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutrality Laboratory at the University of Nottingham, added: “This catalyst manufacturing method is important not only because it allows the most economical use of rare metals, but also it is done in the cleanest way without any need. It is used for solvents or chemical reagents, so the amount of waste generated is very low, which is an increasingly important factor for green chemistry technology.”
The university will launch a large-scale project to expand this work through research to protect endangered elements. “Surface and Interface Metal Atoms for a Sustainable Future (MASI)” is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will be launched at four British universities (Nottingham, Cardiff, Cambridge, Birmingham).
MASI principal researcher Professor Andrei Khlobystov said: “Our project will completely change the way metals are used in a wide range of technologies and break our dependence on critically endangered elements. Specifically, MASI will make progress in the following areas: reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) ) Emissions and the value of their conversion into useful chemicals; the production of “green” ammonia (NH3) as a new carrier for replacing zero-emission fuels and hydrogen storage; and the provision of more sustainable fuel cell and electrolytic cell technologies.”
The metal nanoclusters are activated to react with molecules, which can be driven by heat, light, or electric potential, while the adjustable interaction with the support material provides the durability and reusability of the catalyst. In particular, MASI catalysts will be used to activate molecules that are difficult to crack (such as N2, H2, and CO2). These reactions form the backbone of the chemical industry, such as the Haber-Bosch process.

Post time: Aug-21-2021