Biotech Updates

Gold-Palladium Nanocatalysts for Faster Glycerol Conversion

July 9, 2014

A study has discovered a palladium-gold nanoparticle catalyst for cleaning polluted water as well as in converting biodiesel waste into valuable chemicals.

A group of researchers led by Michael Wong, a chemical engineer from Rice University, examined whether palladium-gold nanocatalysts could convert glycerol, a waste byproduct of biodiesel production, into high-value chemicals. They used gold spheres, four nanometers in diameter, partially covered with palladium.

Their results showed that a balanced mix of palladium and gold converts glycerol about 10 times faster than either metal used alone. The optimal mix of the two metals for optimum glycerol catalysis was about 60% of the surface of the nanoparticle covered with palladium.

Palladium and gold have long been recognized as effective catalysts. Wong and colleagues developed a way to combine these two metals with better control.

"Now that we understand how these work with glycerol, we can study reactions of other biomass molecules like glucose, a building block of plants," Wong said.