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Platinum bound

Published online 29 September 2016

Scientists ‘cage’ platinum clusters to fire chemical reactions.

Sedeer El-Showk

A material that incorporates sub-nanometre scale metal clusters could significantly improve the efficiency of catalytic reactions in industrial chemical processing1.

The new material, prepared by a team of scientists led by Avelino Corma of Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de València and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, consists of clusters of platinum atoms contained in a matrix of zeolite, which is a highly stable, porous material.

By incorporating platinum during the transformation of a two-dimensional zeolite precursor into three-dimensional zeolite, the team ensured that the platinum was trapped in nanometre-scale cups and cages in the developing zeolite crystal. This led to the formation of platinum clusters consisting of just a few atoms within the interstices of the zeolite.

The scientists compared the new material with zeolite impregnated with platinum using a conventional method. 

The platinum clusters in the new material proved significantly more stable at the high temperatures common in industrial catalytic reactions. They were also much smaller than the nanoparticles formed using the conventional approach, sometimes consisting of only a single platinum atom. 

As a result, a larger surface area of platinum is exposed for activity in the new material, increasing its performance in some catalytic reactions. “However, the amount of platinum loaded in the new material is still relatively low,” says Corma. 

“Our next goal is to increase the loading amount while maintaining sub-nanometre clusters, as well as extending this method to other metals.” 


Liu, L. et al. Generation of subnanometric platinum with high stability during transformation of a 2D zeolite into 3D. Nat. Mater. (2016).