Catalysts play a pivotal role in our lives these days. For example, 90 percent of the processes in the chemical industry are dependent on catalysts ranging from making plastic from petroleum, refining oil to manufacturing fertilizers, food, and medicine. They also help in clearing noxious fumes coming from factories and cars.
However, formulating catalytic systems for an array of such large scale applications is quite a challenge since catalysts have to be incorporated into systems having various shapes, sizes, and material compositions. Using them to control myriad chemical reactions under wide-ranging conditions requires elaborate and meticulous arrangements. Further, majority of specialized catalysts depend on rare and expensive metals, namely palladium, platinum, and rhodium.
Researchers Generate Perfect Ordered Micro-materials
To overcome such challenges, a team of researchers from the Harvard John have come up with new methods. The team of researchers at SEAS and Wyss have come up with a method to generate perfect, ordered micromaterials which are like opal. This natural process has been inspired by Aizenberg’s research that has studied complicated micro and nanostructured materials found in butterfly wings or iridescent opals. In fact, one of the main challenges in creating efficient catalysts is formulating nanostructured porous solids in and on which various reactions happen.
To make the structures, the team of researchers went for a co-assembly method in which ultra-small particles that are spherical and matrix precursors are placed together from a single mixture to manufacture films that are free of defect.