The Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University has landed a near-two-million dollar federal grant to investigate special chemicals that cause chemical reactions. Research scientist Marek Pruski says they’re working to create new types of catalysts that can be used to create all sorts of other substances, including fuels. Pruski says catalysts are the materials used to drive certain chemical reactions in desired directions, but he adds, catalysts don’t actually react, they trigger reactions. One good example of a catalyst is a device on virtually all cars called a catalytic converter. It takes exhaust fumes that are potentially harmful to the environment and converts them into carbon dioxide and water, two fairly harmless substances. He says the same principals are applied to many areas of the chemical industry. Pruski and his I-S-U team are trying to design and investigate the principals for making catalysts that are more selective and more efficient for future applications. What types of applications? Pruski says even he doesn’t really know — not yet. Pruski says they’re not looking at any specific applications yet, but they’re trying to build new three-dimensional systems that will be used to anchor catalytic sites and trigger various reactions that could be used to produce other useful chemicals or fuels. The one-point-eight million dollar grant comes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
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