Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New method for making tiny catalysts holds promise for air quality

Date:
December 15, 2010
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Researchers have demonstrated a simpler method of adding iron to tiny carbon spheres to create catalytic materials that have the potential to remove contaminants from gas or liquid. In one continuous process, it produces tiny, micrometer-sized spheres of porous, spongy carbon embedded with iron nanoparticles -- all in the span of a few seconds.

Civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Rood (left) and graduate student John Atkinson developed a novel method of producing porous carbon spheres with iron dispersed throughout them for catalytic and air quality applications.
Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Fortified with iron: It's not just for breakfast cereal anymore. University of Illinois researchers have demonstrated a simpler method of adding iron to tiny carbon spheres to create catalytic materials that have the potential to remove contaminants from gas or liquid. Civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Rood, graduate student John Atkinson and their team described their technique in the journal Carbon.

Related Articles


Carbon structures can be a support base for catalysts, such as iron and other metals. Iron is a readily available, low-cost catalyst with possible catalytic applications for fuel cells and environmental applications for adsorbing harmful chemicals, such as arsenic or carbon monoxide. Researchers produce a carbon matrix that has many pores or tunnels, like a sponge. The large surface area created by the pores provides sites to disperse tiny iron particles throughout the matrix.

A common source of carbon is coal. Typically, scientists modify coal-based materials into highly porous activated carbon and then add a catalyst. The multi-step process takes time and enormous amounts of energy. In addition, materials made with coal are plagued by ash, which can contain traces of other metals that interfere with the reactivity of the carbon-based catalyst. The Illinois team's ash-free, inexpensive process takes its carbon from sugar rather than coal.

In one continuous process, it produces tiny, micrometer-sized spheres of porous, spongy carbon embedded with iron nanoparticles -- all in the span of a few seconds.

"That's what really sets this apart from other techniques. Some people have carbonized and impregnated with iron, but they have no surface area. Other people have surface area but weren't able to load it with iron," Atkinson said. "Our technique provides both the carbon surface and the iron nanoparticles."

The researchers built upon a technique called ultrasonic spray pyrolysis (USP), developed in U. of I. chemistry professor Kenneth Suslick's lab in 2005. Suslick used a household humidifier to make fine mist from a carbon-rich solution, then directed the mist through an extremely hot furnace, which evaporated the water from each droplet and left tiny, highly porous carbon spheres.

Atkinson used USP to make his carbon spheres, but added an iron-containing salt to a carbon-rich sugar solution. When the mist is piped into the furnace, the heat stimulates a chemical reaction between the solution ingredients that creates carbon spheres with iron particles dispersed throughout.

"We were able to take advantage of Dr. Suslick's USP technique, and we are building upon it by simultaneously impregnating the porous carbons with metal nanoparticles," Atkinson said. "It's simple because it's continuous. We can isolate the carbon, add pores, and impregnate iron into the carbon spheres in a single step."

Another advantage of the USP technique is the ability to create materials to address particular needs. By fabricating the material from scratch, rather than trying to modify off-the-shelf products, scientists and engineers can develop materials for specific problem-solving scenarios.

"Right now, you take coal out of the ground and modify it. It's difficult to tailor it to solve a particular air quality problem," Rood said. "We can readily change this new material by how it's activated to tailor its surface area and the amount of impregnated iron. This method is simple, flexible and tailorable."

Next, the researchers will explore applications for the material. Rood and Atkinson have received two grants from the National Science Foundation to develop the carbon-iron spheres to remove nitric oxide, mercury, and dioxin from gas streams -- bioaccumulating pollutants that have caused concern as emissions from combustion sources.

Currently, the three pollutants can be dealt with separately by carbon-based adsorbents and catalysts, but the Illinois team and collaborators in Taiwan hope to harness carbon's adsorption properties and iron's reactivity to remove all three pollutants from gas streams simultaneously.

"We're looking at taking advantage of their porosity and, ideally, their catalytic applications as well," Atkinson said. "Carbon is a very versatile material. What's in my mind is a multi-pollutant control where you can use the porosity and the catalyst to tackle two problems at once."

EPRI, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Air and Waste Management Association, and the University of Illinois supported this work. Co-authors included Suslick, graduate student Maria Fortunato, and researchers from the Illinois State Geological Survey.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. John D. Atkinson, Maria E. Fortunato, Seyed A. Dastgheib, Massoud Rostam-Abadi, Mark J. Rood, Kenneth S. Suslick. Synthesis and characterization of iron-impregnated porous carbon spheres prepared by ultrasonic spray pyrolysis. Carbon, 2011; 49 (2): 587 DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2010.10.001

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "New method for making tiny catalysts holds promise for air quality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101215133542.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2010, December 15). New method for making tiny catalysts holds promise for air quality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101215133542.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "New method for making tiny catalysts holds promise for air quality." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101215133542.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins