Breakthrough in clean diesel research

November 30, 2017, University of St Andrews
Breakthrough in clean diesel research
Credit: University of St Andrews

A breakthrough in catalysis research by academics at the Universities of St Andrews and Newcastle could lead to the development of clean diesel engine technology and help combat air pollution.

Catalysis is an important process that underpins the chemical industry allowing us to efficiently produce the chemicals that we need. It also allows us to clean-up the pollution that we would otherwise emit into the atmosphere. Catalysts are typically , often platinum group metals that are finely deposited upon a substrate. The activity and durability of the catalyst critically depends upon the interaction of the particles with the substrate.

In recent years the team at the University of St Andrews have been exploring metal nanoparticles prepared by exsolution at the surface of perovskite oxides and have shown these structures to enable new dimensions in catalysis and energy conversion and storage technologies owing to their socketed, well-anchored structure.

Now, working closely with researchers at Newcastle University they have demonstrated that contrary to general belief, exsolved particles do not re-dissolve back into the underlying perovskite upon oxidation. Instead, they may remain pinned to their initial locations, and can then undergo further chemical transformations to alter their composition, structure and functionality dramatically, whilst preserving their initial spatial arrangement. This is referred to as 'chemistry at a point'.

The remarkable utility of structures prepared via this concept has been demonstrated in relation to exhaust clean-up from , oxidising CO and NO simultaneously over hundreds of hours of operation. The concept represents a step change in the design of earth-abundant metal catalysts rivalling platinum for reactions of key practical importance, on a weight basis, and also at temperatures relevant to exhaust emissions.

The findings are published today (30 November 2017) in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Lead academic, Professor John Irvine from the School of Chemistry at St Andrews, said: "This concept 'chemistry at a point' enables the design of compositionally-diverse confined oxide particles with superior stability and catalytic reactivity wide applicability in clean energy processes and environmental remediation.

"In 2015 the Government estimated that exposure to NOx and particulate matter emissions from diesel engines lead to around 52,000 additional deaths in the UK; the findings of the research has far-reaching implications for the future of clean diesel and ."

Explore further: Dynamic catalytic converters for clean air in the city

More information: Dragos Neagu et al. Demonstration of chemistry at a point through restructuring and catalytic activation at anchored nanoparticles, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01880-y

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2.2 / 5 (6) Nov 30, 2017
Too little, too late.
Captain Stumpy
4.8 / 5 (5) Nov 30, 2017
Considering the bulk of our heavy machinery, transportation and shipping, as well as farming equipment tends to be diesel, then any and all actions that are taken to reduce emissions or limit the pollution is welcome and smart as f*ck!

There are no green replacements on the market that are as capable as the diesel engines and diesel-electric mentioned above by me, with the exception of the current news about the electric semi, which still requires testing to establish itself

considering the fact that shipping and transportation aren't being reduced simply because the population is burgeoning, then any breakthrough that helps with pollution and emissions is a boon
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 30, 2017
Yup, we may still use it for a long time.

I'm hoping they will convert it to food.
5 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2017
Agree with Stumpy about the fact we'll have diesel for some time to come. Making diesel cleaner is good. Some sort of bio/synthetic fuel would seem to be the long term solution for carbon emissions as long as creating said fuel does not have bad side effects, like competing with food crops. I would think that electrics would stand a good chance of replacing local use diesel (delivery trucks & buses, garbage trucks) that do a lot of stop & go on defined routes. Hybridization could at least make them more energy efficient and hopefully not as noisy.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2017
Well, yes, . . "some time to come". It takes time and available resources to change a base of our transportation network, having such cost. But did you expect to see it start and go so far so quickly?

What do you think is next? How soon?
not rated yet Dec 01, 2017
Fuel cell vehicles and powerplants will supercede diesel engines as soon as the government and the research community pulls their collective heads out of their arses and stop forcing it to be hydrogen-only.

5 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2017
A hydrocarbon fuel synthesised from water and CO2 using energy directly from sun and wind would be the ideal fuel of the future . It would allow existing technologies of distribution and power , like diesel, to be utilized without adding carbon to the air. Internal combustion still has plenty of scope to improve its efficiency and emissions.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Dec 01, 2017
Too little, too late.

George, you are such a downer.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2017
This has been one of the problems with biodiesel. If they can solve this we can eliminate a lot of pollution. One concern: perovskites used in research on catalysis have been predominantly lead-based because that makes them very easy to produce, which is not a really great idea in terms of pollution. However, perovskites in general need not be lead-based; it would be good to know exactly what perovskites these folks are using. Having a look to see if there is more information available.

Quick note on edit: the paper appears to be open access: click on the DOI link at the end of the article. Good for Nature for making important research like this available to all.

After review, lead was not involved. The scientists used cobalt and nickel, neither of which is particularly harmful. This is pretty important stuff, here. While it's great to come up with new technology, making old technology work is much less expensive.

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