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May 21st, 2009
French and UK scientists have developed a spectroscopy technique that has elucidated the reaction mechanism of a silver-alumina catalyst. The researchers say their approach should allow scientists to fine tune both this catalyst and other industrial heterogeneous catalysts to improve performance.
Silver-alumina catalysts are used in lean burn engines, which conserve fossil fuels and limit carbon dioxide emissions but produce nitrogen oxide, a greenhouse gas. Silver-alumina catalysts help remove this nitrogen oxide by reacting it with carbon monoxide. However, the lack of suitable experimental methods to help clarify exactly how supported precious metal catalysts like this work at the molecular level has proved a major obstacle in improving efficiency.
Now, Frédéric Thibault-Starzyk from ENSICAEN, the Université de Caen, France, and colleagues, have combined a high-time resolution Fourier-transform infrared spectrometer (FTIS) with a femtosecond laser and revealed a key intermediate step in the reaction between carbon monoxide and nitric oxide. Using their technique they observed a 2 microsecond flip of a cyanide group from a silver nanoparticle to the alumina support, revealing the importance of the silver-alumina interface.
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