Instrument Promises Better Catalysts

You may soon be able to control of the size of nanoclusters with atomic precision

Michael White and coworker Melissa Patterson check image of molybdenum sulfide nanocluster. Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Production of nanocatalysts that provide improved performance for removing sulfur from natural gas and petroleum products may be possible due to a new instrument that controls the size of nanoclusters with atomic precision, say researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y. Molybdenum sulfide nanoparticles already serve as catalysts for desulfurization, but the impact of different particle sizes and compositions isn’t clearly understood, they explain. The instrument will enable exploration on how the current catalysts work and so will provide insights for the design of the next generation of catalysts, notes Michael White, a chemist at the lab.

“With this new instrument, we can control how many and what type of atoms are in a nanocluster,” says White. “This knowledge enables us to make nanoclusters with predetermined size, structure and chemical composition, all of which are important for the design of new catalysts.”

Work so far has focused on small nanoclusters to test the capabilities of the instrument. “Now we can do further studies with different nanoclusters to find those that are most reactive and therefore best suited as models for making the most efficient nanocatalysts,” White says.

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