Presented by Cardiff University


Twitter Q&A

Dr Phil Davies and PhD student Liam Thomas, Cardiff University, hosted a Twitter Q&A on 2 July 2014 where they talked about the golden pathway of catalysis.

Read the storify of the Twitter chat.

Find out more about other exhibits hosting Q&As.

Hands-on at this exhibit

  • Fire our molecular canon to race over a catalyst
  • Design a catalyst 
  • Find out how gold can be purple


Further reading

Saiman, B. et al. 2012 Involvement of Surface-Bound Radicals in the Oxidation of Toluene Using Supported Au-Pd Nanoparticles. Angewandte Chemie-International Edition 51, 5981-85

Brett, G.L. et al. 2011 Selective Oxidation of Glycerol by Highly Active Bimetallic Catalysts at Ambient Temperature under Base-Free Conditions. Angewandte Chemie-International Edition 50, 10136-39

Hashmi, A. et al. 2013 Gold Catalysis - the Journey Continues. Catalysis Science & Technology 3, 2861–2861

Catalysis is essential to our everyday lives, producing the fertilisers that increase food yields, manufacturing the plastics we need and cleaning the environment. Catalysts make chemical reactions happen faster: In the fraction of a second that waste gas spends in a car’s exhaust pipe poisonous CO and NOx are converted to more benign CO2 and N2. Catalyst activity often depends on nano-scale metal particles that have properties very different from the bulk materials. A case in point is gold; usually prized for its chemical inertness, at the nano-scale gold becomes a surprisingly effective catalyst that can accelerate a range of chemical reactions. This exhibit shows how our understanding of gold catalysis is leading to new and exciting innovations helping to improve and sustain our world.

Catalysis is essential to our everyday lives, producing fertilisers, manufacturing plastics and cleaning the environment. Find out how gold, at the nano-scale, can accelerate a range of chemical reactions and generate exciting innovations to help sustain our world.

Catalysts are under continual development to achieve new levels of activity and selectivity to our desired chemical products. Improvements in catalysis are required to allow us to make better use of precious raw materials and to exploit new, greener sources by generating fuels, plastics and other chemicals from renewables such as corn starch, glycerol and recycled waste. Smarter use of catalysis will also lower our energy consumption and will help in the decentralisation of activities such as grey water processing and small scale electrical power generation.

In our exhibit we  have hands-on demonstrations that illustrate how catalysts lower the barrier to chemical reactions and how they help direct reaction pathways towards preferred products. We also show how we are able to relate the atomic structure of catalysts to their activity and selectivity and illustrate examples of new processes that are being made possible by the use of new catalysts based on nano-scale gold particles.

Lead image: A molecular model of a gold catalyst.