Breaking molecular traffic jams with finned nanoporous materials
Thousands of chemical processes used by the energy industry and for other applications rely on the high speed of catalytic reactions. But molecules frequently are hindered by molecular traffic jams that slow them down. An entirely new class of porous catalysts is using unique fins to speed up the chemistry by allowing molecules to skip the lines that limit the reaction.
The discovery, published in Nature Materials, has immediate relevance to industry for among other things the production of fuels, chemicals for plastics and polymers, and reactions that make molecules for food, medicine and personal care products.
To unravel the pore structures of the finned crystals to identify the "molecular highways" that can speed up the mass transportation of molecules in the material, Xiaodong Zou, professor of inorganic and structural chemistry and Taimin Yang at the Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry at Stockholm University, conducted advanced 3D electron microscopy characterization.
The next step will be to extend the new approach to the rational synthesis of other porous catalysts, and apply the materials for real catalytic reactions in industrial processes.
"Our new approach of building "molecular highways" in porous catalysts could enhance the performance and life time of commercial catalysts, which can make the industrial chemical processes cheaper and faster" says Xiaodong Zou.
About the project:
The research project is led by Jeffrey Rimer at the University of Houston, working with a team of international experts in materials synthesis, characterization and modeling to demonstrate the capability of finned zeolites to improve the performance of this unique family of solid catalysts.
The breakthrough focused on reducing barriers for molecules accessing the interior pores of catalysts, called zeolites – aluminosilicates with pores smaller than a nanometer. One approach to address these transport problems has been to synthesize small nanoparticles. As zeolites become smaller, the amount of surface area exposing the pores increases per amount of catalyst material, which grants increased access for molecules entering the pores. Smaller particles also reduce the internal distance molecules must travel through the particle.
August 12, 2020