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July 9th, 2007

Low-Cost Catalysis

n work that could lead to economical substitutes for precious-metal catalysts, researchers in Denmark have produced hydrogen from water through a reaction catalyzed by a low-cost metal sulfide.

The unique surface properties of platinum, ruthenium, and other metals located in the same region of the periodic table endow those materials with the ability to catalyze numerous chemical reactions. They are widely used, for example, in automotive emissions cleanup and fuel-cell processes. Nonetheless, the metals' high cost has long motivated scientists to search for less expensive substitutes.

Using synthesis methods to control the size and morphology of single-layered, flat molybdenum disulfide nanoparticles, scientists at the Technical University of Denmark, in Lyngby, have demonstrated that the particles can catalyze the hydrogen evolution reaction (2H+ + 2e- → H2) in solution (Science 2007, 317, 100). They also have determined that this reaction occurs along the perimeter (edge) of the particles, a detail with both theoretical and practical value.


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