Licence to go Where no Chemist has Gone Before
News Sep 28, 2009
Their breakthrough will help scientists understand how catalysts work. If this is understood even better catalysts could be created.
Chemists and engineers, under the direction of Dr Pete Licence in the School of Chemistry, overcame significant challenges to be able to study the reaction at the point where the solution touches the surface of the metal electrode bringing in the electricity. They have done this by using spectroscopy under ultra high vacuum.
The research has been hailed as a major breakthrough by electrochemists and an important step forward in the development of new catalysts and sensors. The results will be published in the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) journal Chemical Communications and the article has also been featured in Highlights in Chemical Science which showcases news from across RSC publishing.
Because catalysts — materials used to create a chemical reaction — are dissolved in a solution it is often very hard to understand why they work so well. Normally solutions evaporate almost instantaneously under high vacuum. The team overcame this obstacle by using one of the many room temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) — so-called ‘designer solvents’ which do not evaporate under such conditions.
Dr Licence said: “It wasn’t easy and we had phenomenal problems. We could do the electrochemistry in the vacuum and we could measure the spectra of ionic liquids — but to do both at the same time has been a real uphill struggle — but now we have cracked it.”