Billions of noble metal catalysts are used worldwide for the production of chemicals, energy generation, or cleaning the air. However, the resources required for this purpose are expensive and their availability is limited. To optimize the use of resources, catalysts based on single metal atoms have been developed. A research team of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) demonstrated that noble metal atoms may assemble to form clusters under certain conditions. These clusters are more reactive than the single atoms and, hence, exhaust gases can be much better removed. The results are reported in Nature Catalysis.
Noble metal catalysts are used for a wide range of reactions. Among others, they are applied in nearly all combustion processes to reduce pollutant emissions. Often, they consist of very small particles of the active component, such as a noble metal, which are applied to a carrier material. These so-called nanoparticles are composed of