27 July 2014 - high throughput inorganic chemistry
Inorganic catalysts often have complex compositions with multiple elements combined in precise ratios. The way researchers arrive at these compounds appears based on guesswork and a lot of labour. About time to introduce some job automation the way organic people invented high-throughput screening. In a recent paper in Angewandte Long Kuai et al describe a way to rapidly collect catalyst samples for screening in water electrolysis. An ethanol solution containing iron nitrate , nickel nitrate] a and triblock copolymer called P123 was led as an aerosol through a glass tube at 480° by a vacuum for several seconds. The iron-nickel particles formed in this process were collected on a paper filter, washed to remove the copolymer and then calcinated for several hours in air at 500°C. This method (dubbed "aerosol-spray-assisted approach" or ASAA) enabled quick access to several products with different compositions for example Fe1Ni10Ox and Fe6Ni10Ox. The purpose of the blockcopolymer (a polyethyleneglycol) was not elaborated upon but it is used as a template in the synthesis of mesoporous materials. The final composition of the particles closely matched that of the stock solution probably due to the rapid and complete reaction taking place in the "droplet microreactors". The overall winner in a electrochemical setup was Fe6Ni10. The process now still involves guesswork but the labour part is much reduced.