Researchers from the University of South Florida have developed a revolutionary new catalyst material, based on research conducted at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron housed at the University of Saskatchewan’s Saskatoon campus.
“This is a huge step forward in the field,” said head researcher Dr. Shengqian Ma. “We can see now how MOFs can be really useful and build on that.”
MOF refers to a metal-organic framework, a significant improvement over existing zeolite catalyst material widely used by industry for refining gas and oil products, among other catalyst driven processes.
“We don’t see it, but we rely on catalysis an awful lot,” continues Ma. “If we could develop a better catalyst, that could have effects in all kinds of areas of our lives.”
The application of Ma’s MOF research may also be used across other fields including pharmaceuticals, chemical/fine-chemical syntheses, food industries, biosensors, biofuel cells, nanobioelectronics, among others.
The oil and gas industries rely on a process called “fluid catalytic cracking”, developed in 1942. A means of improving on that process represents a significant technological breakthrough for productivity and efficiency.
Ma’s MOF research group was able to use the Canadian Light Source spectroscopic facility to confirm the interaction of two acids with the aluminum contained in their metal-organic framework.
To replace existing zeolite catalysis materials with the Ma team’s more flexible, efficient and modular metal-organic framework promises to allow researchers to combine inorganic and organic chemistry and to develop nanoporous materials that are far more flexible than existing catalysts.
The world catalyst materials market is worth over $16 billion annually, and is forecast to grow to $20.6 billion in 2018, so there’s a lot riding on developing efficiencies for catalyst materials, particularly for resource-heavy economies like Canada’s.