Discovering the role of metal atoms in fine organic synthesis

Metal atoms are key to fine organic synthesis, say chemists

A small group of chemists from the Russian Academy of Sciences has discovered that metal atoms and not nanoparticles play a key role in the catalysts used for fine organic synthesis. The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. In it, the team used different types of electron microscopes to track the progress of a catalyst.

Research has shown there are two primary methods to study a reaction. The most basic method is to observe and/or measure the reaction as ingredients are added. High-speed cameras can make this easier. This method will not work for nanoscale reactions. In these cases, chemists will use a different method. They try to capture all of the components’ states before and after a reaction.

The second approach is less satisfactory, since it does not allow for the correlation of objects. Chemists in recent years have developed a new method: they follow the actions of one particle during a reaction. The new method is not without its limitations. It cannot be applied to reactions occurring in the nanoworld. Researchers used a combination of multiple types electron microscopy and machine-learning algorithms in this new effort.