Researchers at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering, USA, have identified the structure of iridium single atom catalysts for carbon monoxide oxidation.
Catalysts are materials widely used in industry to speed reactions for making gasoline, pharmaceutical drugs, and for cleaning up car exhaust. They typically contain expensive precious metals, which can make manufacturing and processing costs economically unattractive.
One class of catalysts, the single-atom catalysts, makes efficient use
of the expensive metal by supporting it as isolated atoms on another cheap material.
Until now, the structure of those isolated atoms during the oxidation of carbon
monoxide to carbon dioxide was not known. Different characterization tools and
quantum chemical calculations were applied to show how a single atom catalyst
works. The identification of the structure and reaction mechanism will help in
the design of better and more cost-efficient catalysts.