Researchers in Italy have developed
a new technique for producing hydrogen, and for purifying
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.
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