When materials are confined like this on such a small scale, and without breaking the host, they behave differently from their bulk form, a change that scientists call the confinement effect.
In the case of catalysts, which are materials that speed up chemical reactions, confinement may lead to higher activity. It keeps particles well separated, which is key to prevent loss of function in catalysis, and preserves their highly reactive surface.
Material - Space - Electrons - Material - Emission
Similarly, when a material is squeezed in a small space, its electrons are not free to move as far as usual and the material's light emission colour could change -- an effect that could be used in micro lasers.
This strategy also opens up the possibility of multifunctional materials in which either the guest and host do different things separately or, because the guest is confined, the interactions between the host and guest may produce novel properties.
Approach - Researchers - Nanomaterials - Sponges - Pockets
To illustrate the approach, the researchers used porous nanomaterials which are like sponges but with 1 nm pockets inside where other molecules can fit. However, loading reactive catalysts inside a nanoporous host is challenging because often the reaction conditions can destroy the host.
The study, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates a concept which uses thermodynamics to overcome these issues. The researchers realised that they can estimate the stability of the host under various reaction conditions.
Research - University - Cambridge - Dalian - Institute
The research was carried out with University of Cambridge, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (Chinese Academy of Sciences), National University...
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