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April 9th, 2009
By Katherine Bourzac: For the first time, chemists have designed catalysts that are activated by mechanical stress. Embedded in self-healing coatings, such catalysts might initiate repair reactions when scratched or stressed. The mechanically triggered catalysts could also find applications in industry to improve yields of plastics, drugs, and other substances.
The mechanically activated catalysts were designed by Rint Sijbesma, a professor of chemistry at Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands, and are described today in the journal Nature Chemistry. Some existing catalysts can be activated by heat or light pulses, allowing chemists greater control over the progress of chemical reactions. But the new catalysts are the first example of catalysts activated by mechanical stresses.
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