Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwanese achieve a breakthrough in nanotechnology

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Accidents resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning could be effectively prevented by a catalyst recently invented in Taiwan, scientists at National Taiwan University (NTU) said yesterday.

Potential applications of the new catalyst include the production of masks used in fire accidents and the improvement of fuel cells.

"If the catalyst can be firmly attached to masks, victims at the scene of a fire might inhale less carbon monoxide," Mou Chung-yuan (牟中原), a NTU chemistry professor, said at a press conference yesterday.

Chemical researchers have been trying to produce new catalysts to bring about a chemical reaction to transform poisonous carbon monoxide into less-harmful carbon dioxide, he said.

In addition, Mou said, the catalyst, which involves gold-silver bimetallic nanoparticles, can be used in the pre-production of fuel cells. Although gold is among the most stable, incorruptible substances known to mankind, recent nanotechnology research showed that the element works very well as a catalyst.

Masatake Haruta from Japan was the first scientist to show that gold catalysts could be effective at ambient temperatures. When gold is coprecipitated with certain metal-oxide supports, Haruta found that the resulting catalysts are very active for carbon monoxide oxidation. Gold nanoparticles, however, only have a 30 percent success rate.

To improve its effectiveness as a catalyst, Mou and his NTU teammates, including Wan Ben-zu (萬本儒), a chemical engineering professor, started developing new catalysts by using nanotechnology two years ago. Their results suggest that a new catalyst made from gold-silver bimetallic nanoparticles could significantly increase the success rate to almost 100 percent at room temperature.

"Experimental results suggest that the bimetallic catalyst, whose ratio of gold to silver is five to one, can help to effectively oxidize carbon monoxide," Mou said.

The gold-silver bimetallic nanoparticles are supported by mesoporous silica with a diameter of between 2nm and 6nm.

The research is financially supported by the Ministry of Education.

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