“Nanobowls” to the development of more stable and efficient catalysts

· TGI - Catalysis
Authors

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University have discovered a new path to the development of more stable and efficient catalysts. The research team sought to create “nanobowls”—nanosized bowl shapes that allow inorganic catalysts to operate selectively on particular molecules.

“Nanobowls are intended to mimic the selective enzymes found in nature,” says Argonne chemist Jeffrey Elam. “We can tailor the nanobowl size and shape to accept certain molecules and reject others.”

Although nanobowls and enzymes both use a lock-and-key mechanism, they serve different purposes and operate in dramatically different environments. “Enzymes are composed of organic materials suitable for the relatively low-temperature, low-pressure environments of living organisms,” Elam says. “But the extremely harsh conditions necessary for biomass conversion would cause the enzyme proteins to unravel. In contrast, the nanobowls are inorganic, and this makes them very durable.”

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