UNL chemist Xiao Cheng Zeng has co-authored a study featured on the February cover of ACS Catalysis, a high-impact academic journal published by the American Chemical Society.
Written with researchers from the University of Puerto Rico, the study evaluated how well certain metallic atoms help toxic carbon monoxide molecules acquire the extra electron that transforms them into the less noxious carbon dioxide.
Zeng and his colleagues found that several atoms — rhodium, palladium, ruthenium and titanium — generally facilitated this oxidation process more efficiently than platinum, previously considered the benchmark for single-atom catalysis.
These atoms also exhibited stability that exceeded or matched platinum, forming bonds with the underlying iron-oxide surface that prevented them from getting carried away during the oxidation process.
The study noted that these catalysts could improve the detoxification of auto emissions that commonly include carbon monoxide, which binds to red blood cells and hinders their ability to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Carbon monoxide can also degrade metal electrodes in fuel cells, Zeng said. Reducing its levels could consequently expand the lifespan of these cells in electric vehicles.
The fact that the study’s catalysts cost significantly less than platinum could further encourage their adoption among auto makers and other industries, according to Zeng.
“Platinum is very expensive; palladium is a lot less expensive; and ruthenium is much cheaper than either one,” said Zeng, Ameritas University Professor of chemistry. “So we predict that these single-atom catalysts would considerably lower the cost as compared to platinum, thereby broadening their potential applications as catalytic converters.”
The study was supported by an RII Track-2 award from the National Science Foundation.