Bubbles turn on chemical catalysts | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Bubbles turn on chemical catalysts

Mechanical force could help chemical compounds spur reactions when the time is right

5:22pm, April 6, 2009

Scientists have figured out a new way to strong-arm some catalysts, tying the chemical compounds down and then, as needed, unleashing them with brute force. The research, published online April 6 in Nature Chemistry, could lead to coatings that heal when scratched or new fluids for making moldings or microchips. The work also offers a way to monitor stress in materials found in products such as bike helmets. 

A catalyst’s job is to speed up or slow down a reaction in everything from car engines to cells. But to do so, an area known as the active site has to be exposed. In materials science, catalysts are often spurred into action with heat, UV light or a change in pH. In the new study scientists used the ultrasonic force released by bursting bubbles to unleash two catalysts that had been bound in chains of polymers.

“This has a lot of materials applications,” comments chemist Alshakim Nelson of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content