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Iron cuts at precious metal

An iron-aluminium compound could replace a palladium catalyst, reducing the cost of plastic production

Chemists don't like precious metals – at least not when they need the expensive materials as catalysts to accelerate reactions or guide them in a particular direction. And this is often the case, as in an important step in the production of polyethylene, a substance that makes plastic bags light, flexible and stable. However, an international team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, the University of Munich and the Forschungszentrum Jülich have now developed a catalyst using an complex metallic alloy of iron and aluminium within the C-MAC consortium that works just as well as the conventional palladium catalyst, but costs much less. To identify the iron-aluminium alternative, the scientists first systematically ascertained what properties the material would need. They plan to use this same procedure to search for catalysts for other reactions in future.

For further details see http://www.mpg.de/5860285/iron_aluminium_catalyst.
Original publication: M. Armbrüster, K. Kovnir, M. Friedrich, D. Teschner, G. Wowsnick, M. Hahne, P. Gille, L. Szentmiklósi, M. Feuerbacher, M. Heggen, F. Girgsdies, D. Rosenthal, R. Schlögl, Yu. Grin, Nature Materials 11, 2012, 690–693. doi:10.1038/nmat3347

 

 
An alternative to precious metal: Max Planck scientists used this crystal of an iron-aluminium compound to catalyse an important step in the production of polyethylene plastic. To date, industry has used a palladium compound for this process. © MPI for Chemical Physics of Solids
An alternative to precious metal: Max Planck scientists used this crystal of an iron-aluminium compound to catalyse an important step in the production of polyethylene plastic. To date, industry has used a palladium compound for this process. © MPI for Chemical Physics of Solids

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