By Nick Gilbert
Dr Keith McKenna, a physicist from the University of York, has played a major role in an intercontinental research, which contributed in establishing gold’s catalytic properties at a nano level. McKenna was part of a research team which found that the catalytic activity of nanoporous gold (NPG) starts from high amounts of surface defects that are present within its three-dimensional structure.
This research, which has been published in Nature Materials (online), can help scientists in the development of durable and efficient fuel cells and catalytic converters because NPG is used as a catalytic agent for the oxidation of carbon monoxide.
Bulk gold is inactive but NPG maintains high catalytic activity in oxidation reactions. The researchers discovered that with the surface defects found in the complex nanoporous structure, the catalytic activity can be recognized. NPG manifests equivalent activity to nanoparticulate gold and therefore, it is far more stable, thus making it viable for creating catalysts with extended lifetimes and high performance.
The research team developed NPG by dipping an alloy of silver and gold in a chemical solution that removed the former metal to form a porous atomic structure. The researchers then used transmission electron microscopy to trace the proof that the surface defects present on NPG were active place for catalysis and the leftover silver made them more stable.
The Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in the USA; Ectopia Science Institute at Nagoya University in Japan; the WPI Advanced Institute for Materials Research at Tohoku University in Japan; and School of Materials Science and Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China were also involved in the research.