Speedy stories from the archive

This exercise is a part of Educator Guide: Built for Speed / View Guide

1. Search for an article that discusses the use of catalysts in developing new energy technologies. Explain the article. Possible student response: “Hydrogen made using sunlight, cheap materials,” published 9/16/2014, discusses the use of chemical catalysts to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water and energy derived from sunlight. Using sunlight to produce hydrogen as a fuel source would be a clean, efficient way to store the sun’s energy.

2. Search for an article that discusses alternatives to platinum in catalytic converters. Describe the alternative and how it works. 

Possible student response: “Building a cheaper catalyst,” published on 4/24/2010, discusses using perovskite as an alternative to platinum catalytic converters in diesel vehicles. Wei Li at General Motors’ Global Research and Development branch replaced a platinum-based catalyst with one made of manganese-based perovskite. The resulting reaction rate was faster than the rate using platinum.

3. Search for the earliest published article about catalytic action. What anecdotal story demonstrates catalytic action?  

Possible student response: “A table trick and what it teaches,” published on 6/28/1924, tells the story of a dinner trick explained by the science of “catalysis.”  The story describes the end of a dinner where someone remarks that you can’t light sugar on fire with a match. Attempts are made, without success. A guest takes the challenge and succeeds by using the ash from a cigar, which lowers the ignition point of sugar. The chemicals in the ash act as catalysts.