Neil Young and Peter Nellist employed the atomic-resolution imaging capability of the departments aberration-corrected STEM to probe the structure of the catalyst. The new catalyst was found to be best for the production of methanol. It was found to comprise of extremely small ‘Pd-Fe’ clusters and metal adatoms on defective iron oxide. The atomic scale of the active catalyst is key to its functionality. The researchers report their findings in the 11 September 2012 issue of Nature Communications, and are of potential importance for clean energy production applications in energy-starved and developing countries.
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A collaboration between scientists from the Department of Chemistry, Department of Materials and Diamond Light Source has yielded a new chemical catalyst for the production of methanol. They showed that ethylene glycol, a versatile chemical derived from biomass can be directly converted to methanol in hydrogen, with high selectivity over a Pd/Fe2O3 co-precipitated catalyst. This avoids the intermediate syn-gas stage employed by current generation catalysts.