So far, a knowledge based approach to improve heterogeneous catalysts and understand the processes taking place thereon is only possible in the rarest cases. The reason for this is the use of very complex systems, which are hard to characterise and consist of many potentially active components.
As easy as possible
Catalysts can be simplified by using unsupported and well characterised intermetallic compounds: thus, there will be neither interaction between supporting material and metal nor coexistence of different compounds of the metals.
By selecting appropriate compounds and the respective crystal structure, the catalysts can be systematically varied in a wide range. This applies to the geometric vicinity of the active metal as well as to the electronic structure and therefore e.g. the adsorption properties.
Within our investigations, unsupported, well characterised and in situ stable intermetallic compounds are tested for their catalytic properties in the semihydrogenation of acetylene and the steam reforming of methanol. In both cases, correlations between electronic structure and/or geometric arrangement and catalytic properties are expected.
Synthesis of nanoparticles
Materials showing good catalytic properties will subsequently be synthesised as nanoparticles, by which the catalytic activity of the compounds can be substantially increased without losing the high selectivity and long term stability.