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New iron catalyst promises green future for hydrogenation

Date:
June 27, 2013
Source:
RIKEN
Summary:
A new iron nanoparticle catalyst promises to drastically improve the efficiency of hydrogenation, a key chemical process used in a wide array of industrial applications. Cleaner, safer and cheaper than traditional rare metal-based catalysts, the new, more environmentally friendly technique marks a breakthrough for the emerging field of green chemistry.

Iron nanoparticles (diameter: 90 micrometers).
Credit: Image courtesy of RIKEN

A new iron nanoparticle catalyst developed by researchers in Japan and Canada promises to drastically improve the efficiency of hydrogenation, a key chemical process used in a wide array of industrial applications. Cleaner, safer and cheaper than traditional rare metal-based catalysts, the new, more environmentally friendly technique marks a breakthrough for the emerging field of green chemistry.

Hydrogenation, the reaction of molecular hydrogen with another compound or element, is one of the world's most highly studied chemical reactions, with industrial applications ranging from petrochemistry, to food production, to pharmaceuticals.

Most such applications of hydrogenation use rare metal catalysts such as palladium or platinum to speed up chemical reactions. While highly efficient, these metals are expensive and limited in supply, posing environmental and economic challenges.

To get around these problems, researchers at McGill University, the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science and the Institute for Molecular Science developed their new technique using iron, a much less expensive and far more abundant element. Iron has been ruled out in the past due to the fact that it rusts in the presence of oxygen and water, negating its catalytic effect.

The new technique, described in a paper published in the journal Green Chemistry, produces iron nanoparticles directly inside a polymer matrix, which protects the iron surface from rusting while allowing the reactants to reach it and react. The resulting system of polymer-stabilized iron nanoparticles in water is the first of its kind: a safe, cheap and environmentally friendly catalyst system for hydrogenation reactions.

"Our aim is to develop iron-based catalysts not only for hydrogenation but also a variety of organic transformations that can be used in future industrial applications," explains RIKEN researcher Dr. Yoichi M. A. Yamada, one of the authors of the paper. "If rare metal-based catalysts can be replaced by iron-based ones, then we can overcome our costly and dangerous dependency on rare metals."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by RIKEN. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Reuben Hudson, Go Hamasaka, Takao Osako, Yoichi M. A. Yamada, Chao-Jun Li, Yasuhiro Uozumi, Audrey Moores. Highly efficient iron(0) nanoparticle-catalyzed hydrogenation in water in flow. Green Chemistry, 2013; DOI: 10.1039/C3GC40789F

Cite This Page:

RIKEN. "New iron catalyst promises green future for hydrogenation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627083032.htm>.
RIKEN. (2013, June 27). New iron catalyst promises green future for hydrogenation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627083032.htm
RIKEN. "New iron catalyst promises green future for hydrogenation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627083032.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

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