Lasers Are Used to Screen Solid-State Catalysts
Scientists looking for solid-state catalysts that are important to the chemical and oil industries have relied on trial-and-error processes because catalytic activity is difficult to screen. Unlike superconductivity or magnetoresistivity, properties that can be tested by contact probes, catalytic activity eludes most detection methods. Some researchers have suggested using IR thermography and microprobe sampling mass spectroscopy, but the first method does not detect reaction products and the second is difficult to implement.
Selim M. Senkan of the University of California at Los Angeles' department of chemical engineering decided on a different method. He employed laser-induced resonance-enhanced multiphoton ionization to screen a library of solid-state catalysts that can activate the dehydrogenation of cyclohexane to benzene. His research, which was reported in the July 23 issue of Nature, points to the feasibility of adapting the same technique to screen other catalytic reactions and larger libraries of catalysts.
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