Tiny Tech #12: Nanostructured Catalysts

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

If you are in the business of making plastics, or gasoline, or pharmaceuticals, you quickly discover that the chemical reactions to make them are really slow: you can mix the reactants and wait years -- and nothing happens!  Fortunately, you can often solve this problem by adding a substance called a catalyst, a chemical agent that speeds up the making and breaking of chemical bonds.  Unfortunately, catalysts tend to degrade and become inactive over time. To make catalysts last longer, they are often chemically attached to particles of an inert solid called a support.  But the particles partly block the flow of chemical reactants to the catalyst, and this usually makes the catalyst slower.

One possible way to avoid the blocking effect is to use very small nanoparticles as catalyst supports.  The nanoparticles are chosen to be large enough to hold the catalyst but small enough not to block access of the chemical reactants.  And the results are great: these nanostructured catalysts last longer AND are more reactive.

Nanostructured catalysts are one way -- to make a chip off the old block. 

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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