More efficient catalysts use iridium atoms


The Institute of Applied Physics brought new technology for advanced catalysts at the TU Vienna. The materials of conventional catalyst are expensive and in terms of its efficiency, it stays behind as compared to the expectations of the researchers. This situation could be changed with the utilization of iridium atoms on a specialized iron oxide surface.

Catalysts are those materials which boost the speed of chemical reactions. The actuation energy is lowered to make this acceleration possible. In cars and in the chemical industry, catalysts are indispensable.

For vehicles with petrol engines, it has been made mandatory in the automotive industry since 1 January 2008. The task of starting up a chemical reaction in the exhaust gas inside the car’s exhaust system is given to the catalyst’s converter.

This process is made possible only because of catalytically active precious metals such as platinum or rhodium. It reduces the proportion of environmentally harmful carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide in the total of exhaust gas.


The gas touches the metal component to react chemically with other components of the gas. Prof. Gareth Parkinson from the Institute of Applied Physics at the Vienna University of Technology explains the problem associated with this technology: “The catalyst material is present as a single large block.

Therefore, only the external atoms of the precious metal can be involved in the process. Gas cannot reach the atoms inside the metal.”

Researchers are in search of a catalyst material that can be distributed as finely as possible. It would also be capable of activating numerous atoms.

For example, it would have been made possible with finer atoms. Researchers from all around the world are utilizing two methods for this process –
1. Solid Metal Catalysts
2. Liquid Catalysts

The basic advantage of Solid Metal Catalysts is that they flow at a higher rate.


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