Chemistry Professor’s Search for New, Greener Catalysts Could Pay Big Dividends

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Rutgers University | Platinum. Palladium. Iridium. Ruthenium. Reciting these terms, you’d be excused for thinking you’re in Ancient Rome. But these Latin derivatives have a more modern connection: All are precious metals with vast industrial applications—in everything from computers, electronics and plastics to pharmaceuticals, automobiles and fuel cells. In the world of chemistry, they’re also known as excellent catalysts, capable of jump-starting chemical reactions in an instant when they might otherwise take years. But if there’s one glitch, it’s that these metals are rare, expensive and finite, which is why chemists like RU–N’s Huixin He are looking for environmentally sustainable alternatives to these crucial catalysts.