Sub-Nanosized Gold Catalysts

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Science  14 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6113, pp. 1434
DOI: 10.1126/science.1231901

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Gold was long considered to be “catalytically dead” (1), but since 1985, triggered by observations of Haruta (2) and Hutchings (3), heterogeneous gold catalysis has become a highly active field. Innovative results from homogeneous gold catalysis have also triggered considerable research interest in this area (4). These developments have mainly been of academic interest; investigations into new gold catalysts, reactions, and mechanisms have in most cases been conducted with relatively high catalyst loadings of ∼5 mol% and small amounts of substrate (100 to 200 mg), and only a few applications in the synthesis of fine chemicals are known. On page 1452 of this issue, Oliver-Meseguer et al. (5) report that small gold clusters of only 3 to 10 atoms can efficiently catalyze the addition of water to alkynes at catalyst loadings lower than anyone has reported before. The results will open the door for future industrial applications beyond fine chemicals, which are typically produced in smaller scale.