Silica-supported catalysts get a new breath of life

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Science  04 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6265, pp. 1171-1172
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2204

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In heterogeneous catalysis, metals, metal oxides, and metal sulfides are traditionally dispersed as nanoscale particles on a support with a large surface area, so as to maximize the number of exposed active sites. Historically, alumina supports have been used for the majority of refining applications, but where acid sites catalyze unwanted isomerization or oligomerization reactions, silica would be a better choice. Despite this advantage, silica has often been considered a problematic support—an “ice skating rink”—because of the difficulty of forming strongly interacting precursors that wet the surface to yield well-dispersed particles. However, the past two decades have witnessed slow but steady progress in advancing several science-based approaches that will allow industrial-scale preparation of silica-supported catalysts.