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Nanotechnology Research into Energy Production

The Center for Atomic Level Catalyst Design focuses on use of nanotechnology to improve catalysts to reduce the cost — environmental and economic — of producing energy.

Catalysts are used to reduce the energy required to make a chemical reaction. For example, your car has a catalytic converter that contains the catalyst platinum, which changes air pollution into harmless elements using much less energy than would otherwise be needed. Catalysts are vital to just about every energy-producing method available to us.

The Center for Atomic Level Catalyst Design is based at Louisiana State University, with researchers located at Clemson University, University of Florida, Georgia Tech, Grambling University, Louisiana Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University, Vienna University of Technology, and the University of Utrecht.

The Center was started in 2009 when the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy set up 41 Energy Frontier Research Centers. As one of these Centers, the Center for Atomic Level Catalyst Design works with other universities, national labs, nonprofits, and corporations to solve what they refer to as grand challenges.

According to the mission statement for these 41 EFRCs, they “will harness the most basic and advanced discovery research in a concerted effort to establish the scientific foundation for a fundamentally new U.S. energy economy. The outcome will decisively enhance U.S. energy security and protect the global environment in the century ahead.”

The Center has several major goals in the area of nanocatalysts, including the following:

  • Improving the ability to simulate catalytic reactions

  • Advancing the quality of tools available for identifying the characteristics of catalysts

  • Developing tools for manufacturing new catalysts

The lab has a team of investigators from various universities. Small interdisciplinary teams focus on one catalyst type.

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The Center is attempting to advance the science of making new catalysts by using a computer model that could predict the composition and structure of new catalysts required for specific chemical reactions. When a new catalyst is requested the catalytic material could then be produced with each atom arranged in the optimum structure to enable that particular chemical reaction.

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