Journal: Nature Communications
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Why catalysts thrive in tight spaces
Confining catalysts and chemical reactants within a snug-fitting nanopore can accelerate reactions in several key ways. This finding could improve the rational design of catalysts.
Enzymes — nature’s high-performance catalysts — typically employ a spatially confined active site that strictly controls how incoming chemical substrates interact with the enzyme’s catalytic centre. Similarly, synthetic catalysts can be enclosed within nanoscale pores that partly mimic the reaction-accelerating nanoconfinement effects of enzyme active sites.
Now, an international team including Soochow University researchers has revealed three key ways by which nanoconfinement can accelerate chemical reactions by synthetic catalysts.
They found that the nanopore structure can guide the reactant to approach the catalyst in the ideal orientation for reaction. Furthermore, it can help to tune the strength of the absorptive interaction between catalyst and reactant. Finally, it can help to keep reactive intermediates in place for the chemical transformation to complete.
These molecular-scale insights into nanoconfinement effects should aid future nanopore catalyst design.
- Nature Communications 10, 4815 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12799-x