The Cyanide Flip


Catalytic converters are used in vehicles to reduce toxins in the exhaust. But the reaction by which they convert toxic gases into harmless ones was not understood. To crack this scientists simulated the condition inside a catalytic converter; they placed a catalyst in the midst of toxic gases. The catalyst was made of silver nanoparticles deposited on aluminium oxide. A laser beam aimed at the catalyst triggered a reaction that was analyzed by infrared spectrometer. The analysis showed that in the intermediate reaction between gases like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, a cyanide group was formed. The silver nanoparticles flipped it over to aluminium oxide. This made the gases harmless. The study, reported in the May 22 issue of Science, makes way for improved catalytic converters.


Down To Earth, July 2009