Mysterious catalyst explained: How tiny gold particles aid the production of plastic components

Lyra Nara Blog

Mysterious catalyst explained: How tiny gold particles aid the production of plastic components

Gold/titanium dioxide catalyst in action: At the interface between a gold particle (Au, gold) and the titanium dioxide surface (TiO2, red and light blue), an oxygen molecule (O2, dark blue spheres) is activated by a charge transfer and becomes catalytically active. Thus, methanol (CH3OH) can be efficiently and selectively oxidized to formaldehyde (CH2O); water (H2O) is produced as well. The researchers made the charge transfer visible using vibrational spectroscopy of adsorbed carbon monoxide (CO; middle of the figure): In the presence of oxygen, a new band (CO@Au(delta+)O2(delta-) appears in the spectrum. Credit: M. Farnesi Camellone, D. Marx

From methanol to formaldehyde – this reaction is the starting point for the synthesis of many everyday plastics. Using catalysts made of gold particles, formaldehyde could be produced without the environmentally hazardous waste generated in conventional methods. Just how the mysterious gold catalyst works has been found out by theoretical and experimental researchers…

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