Foolâs Gold may prove an unlikely alternative to overexploited catalytic materials.
Catalytic materials, which lower the energy barriers for chemical reactions, are used in everything from the commercial production of chemicals to catalytic converters in car engines. However, with current catalytic materials becoming increasingly expensive, scientists are exploring viable alternatives. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have now discovered that the sulphide material iron pyrite, commonly known as ‘Fool’s Gold’, may hold the answer. Using state-of-the-art electronic structure calculations, researchers led by Stephen Jenkins at the University’s Department of Chemistry, explored the potential catalytic activity of iron pyrite, the most abundant sulphur mineral on Earth. In their study, the Cambridge researchers focused on the reactions between iron pyrite and nitrogen oxides (NOx), an extremely poisonous class of compounds produced (among other sources) by car engines and industrial power plants.