Sci­en­tists make vana­dium into use­ful cat­a­lyst

Chemical Industry Digest - - New Developments -

Sci­en­tists at the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy’s Ar­gonne Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory have trans­formed a com­mon me­tal into a use­ful cat­a­lyst for a wide class of re­ac­tions, a role for­merly re­served for ex­pen­sive pre­cious me­tals.

In a new study, Ar­gonne chemist Max Del­ferro boosted and an­a­lyzed the un­prece­dented cat­alytic ac­tiv­ity of an el­e­ment called vana­dium for hy­dro­gena­tion.

Vana­dium is much more abun­dant and cheaper than the pre­cious me­tals. Un­for­tu­nately, most vana­dium on its own will not work for the hy­dro­gena­tion process. To make the vana­dium work, re­quired a three-step process. First, the vana­dium has to be in its 3+ ox­i­da­tion state, a very re­ac­tive but un­sta­ble state. Sec­ond, the vana­dium had to be rel­a­tively dis­persed on the sur­face. Last, the vana­dium atoms had to be “low-co­or­di­nated,” which means that there would be elec­tronic room for the tar­get mol­e­cules to bind.

“Get­ting sin­gle-atom vana­dium into this spe­cial con­fig­u­ra­tion on me­tal ox­ide sur­faces is not easy,” Del­ferro said. “It re­quires the use of spe­cial syn­thetic tech­niques such as sur­face organometal­lic chem­istry and atomic layer de­po­si­tion. How­ever, if we can make vana­dium or an­other abun­dant me­tal as cat­alyt­i­cally ac­tive as the noble me­tals, we can cre­ate dra­matic cost sav­ings in these very com­mon and com­mer­cially im­por­tant cat­alytic pro­cesses.”

When Del­ferro and his team cre­ated the vana­dium in this con­fig­u­ra­tion, they found dra­matic boost in cat­alytic ac­tiv­ity. An ar­ti­cle based on the study, “Iso­lated, Well-De­fined Organovana­dium (III) on Sil­ica: Sin­gle-Site Cat­a­lyst for Hy­dro­gena­tion of Alkenes and Alkynes,” ap­peared on­line in Chem­i­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

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