Using nanomaterials to illuminate new pathways for old chemistry


Published: 21Sep2017

Researchers at McGill University have discovered a new way to use nanomaterials of a particular size and shape to perform old chemistry in a new fashion. Their finding, published in ACS Catalysis, highlights the use of cubic silver nanoparticles to harvest light for the activation of hydrogen in their hydrogenation reactions. These silver nanocubes possess an optical property called the surface plasmon resonance and their paper explores the use of these special properties in catalysis.

Hydrogenation reactions remain one of the most important reactions for the chemical industry, but often uses rare metals, high temperatures and pressures and is not very selective. Graduate students Michael Landry and Alexandra Gellé, with undergraduate student Beryl Meng, from the Moores and Barrett groups, have successfully explored silver nanoparticles as a photocatalyst for hydrogenation using mild reaction conditions for the transformation of aldehydes and ketones to alcohols. Atmospheric pressure of hydrogen is sufficient for hydrogenation, due mostly to the photo-excited states achieved by their new catalyst. This is significant milder than all other known methods relying on silver. This system is completely selective for carbonyl reduction over alkenes, opening up the possibility for their use in more organic reactions. This example of using silver nanocubes as a photocatalyst demonstrates one of the first real examples of using pure plasmonic nanomaterials in liquid phase organic synthesis.

“Surface-Plasmon-Mediated Hydrogenation of Carbonyls Catalyzed by Silver Nanocubes under Visible Light” Landry, M.J.; Gellé, A.; Meng, B.Y.; Barrett, C.J. and Moores, A. ACS Catal. 2017, 7, 6128-6133.

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