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A catalyst that mimics enzymes

By Paul Grad |

A research team from the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia; www.unsw.edu.au) and Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Bochum, Germany; www.ruhr-universität-bochum.de) has succeeded in transferring structural characteristics of natural enzymes to metallic nanoparticles, achieving high catalytic activity. In the case of enzymes, the reacting substances must pass through a channel from the surrounding solution to the active enzyme center, where the structure provides favorable reaction conditions. To mimic enzyme structures, the team proposed nanoparticles with etched substrate channels. The team first produced nanoparticles (10-nm dia.) of nickel and platinum. The nickel is then removed by chemical etching to form channels. An oleylamine (a long-chain unsaturated fatty amine) is used as a capping layer that blocks the external surface of the nanoparticles participating in the catalytic reaction. Finally, the active centers on the particle surface are deactivated to ensure that only the active centers within the channels participate in the reactions. Using the oxygen-reduction reaction as a model reaction (an important step in fuel-cell operation), the catalytic activity of these channeled particles were compared to those of conventional…
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