Brussels, 29 Jul 2005
Researchers in Italy have developed a new technique for producing hydrogen, and for purifying polluted gases.
The technique involves the release of oxygen from cerium oxide, a pale yellow-white powder used in ceramics and to polish glass.
'Ceria-based materials are oxygen buffers, materials that allow [one] to efficiently store or release oxygen, thus favouring a high catalytic activity and inducing a set of chemical reactions which would otherwise require higher pressures and temperatures,' says Friedrich Esch from the TASC INFM-CNR laboratory. The findings could therefore make an important contribution towards energy conservation, increasing the safety of industrial processes, and reducing environmental impact.
Most industrial processes currently involve heterogeneous catalysts - devices that are in a different state (solid) to one of the reactants (gas).
The researchers, from three different Italian institutions in Trieste, have used innovative technologies in order to obtain these results: scanning tunnelling microscopy that allows one to obtain images of a material's surface with atomic resolution, and numerical modelling - used to describe electronic and atomic structure by means of parallel computing.