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Tailored nanosized metal catalysts for improving activity and selectivity via engineering of their structure and local environment

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Nano-scale tailoring of chemical reactions

EU-funded researchers have made significant progress in enhancing selectivity of industrially important metal catalysts.

Industrial Technologies

Catalysts are compounds used to speed the rate of chemical reactions without themselves being changed by the reactions so can bereused again and again. Catalysts are something like chemical matchmakers. They should bring together only those compounds required for a desired product – that is, they should exhibit specificity for the reaction substrates - and thus enhance both the efficiency of production and the purity of the final product. In fact, production of fine chemicals such as those used in pharmaceuticals, foods and perfumes is often limited by the low specificity of the catalysts used in the synthesis reactions. Increasing fundamental knowledge of the nano-scale properties and behaviours of chemical catalysts with the goal of creating better catalysts was the objective of the Nanocat project. Researchers focused on various metals of the same particle size in different local environments in order to establish the link between catalyst properties and their roles in the industrially important hydrogenation/oxidation and isomerisation reactions. Investigators prepared catalysts consisting of nano-sized metal particles of industrial importance incorporated into inorganic or organic matrices. They then conducted kinetic studies to correlate catalyst properties to catalytic behaviour. Modelling work enabled the development of a clear picture regarding the reaction mechanisms for industrially relevant reactions and the catalysts chosen. The creation of fundamental knowledge regarding the relationship between metal particle size/local environment and catalytic performance enabled prototype catalyst preparation. Nanocat has enhanced understanding of nano-scale particle behaviour of metal catalysts with potential to enhance catalyst selectivity. A number of industrially relevant catalysts for the pharmaceutical, food and perfume industries now exhibit improved performance.

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