New generations of monofunctional catalysts increasingly benefit from precisely controlled and optimized nanoscale features. Jovana Zečević et al. now show that optimization at the nanoscale can also improve the performance of the bifunctional hydrocracking catalysts widely used for the production of high-quality diesel fuels. These catalysts contain a metal site and an acid site, and for many years the received wisdom was that these sites should be as close as possible for optimum performance. But Zečević et al. find that having them too close together can be detrimental to selectivity, and that the sites should be positioned at nanometre-scale separations. This work may lead to more effective diesel production from alternative sources such as natural gas, vegetable oil and algal oil.
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