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In this issue:
Tracking Signs of Better Catalysts
Tevatron to Shut Down at End of FY2011

SLAC Today

Tuesday - January 11, 2011

Tracking Signs of Better Catalysts

(Image - 3-D volcano plot)
A representation of a volcano graph. SUNCAT uses volcano graphs to determine where important chemical properties coincide. A substance with those properties is a good candidate for a catalyst. (Image courtesy Frank Abild-Pederson.)

SLAC researchers have taken a big step toward making useful catalysts easier to find or create—processes that have previously relied on trial and error. As explained yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, SLAC researchers at the Center for Sustainable Energy through Catalysis, or SUNCAT, are using advances in surface chemistry research to better describe the intrinsically complex process of catalysis, a type of chemical reaction that occurs at the surfaces of materials.

In catalysis, a chemical called a catalyst helps speed chemical reactions between other molecules, without itself being changed. Catalysis is the basis for most important industrial chemical processes, used for years in everything from refining oil to producing plastic or fertilizers. It is also the basis for some of the crucial processes needed to turn sunlight into fuels and other chemicals. However, the theory to explain just why certain substances make chemical reactions happen faster or more efficiently—and, more importantly, to predict even better catalysts—has lagged behind experimental efforts. The researchers at SUNCAT want to use an approach called density functional theory to change that.

"[The paper] is really almost a program for the theory portion of catalysis research at SLAC and Stanford," said Jens Nørskov, director of SUNCAT and the paper's lead author. The paper does not shy away from the challenges such research still faces, he added, "but it illustrates where our methods can help." The methods of density functional theory involve identifying important trends for classes of catalysts and chemical reactions; those trends can then be used to predict new and better catalysts. In this approach, the electrons that are key to forming and dissolving chemical bonds are treated as interacting clouds of varying densities, and a descriptor, or more general way to describe their behavior, is developed. Thus far, density functional theory has been applied successfully for an important class of catalysts called transition metals.  Read more...

Tevatron to Shut Down at End of FY2011

Fermilab Today published the following message from Director Pier Oddone in a special edition today:

To the Fermilab community:

Today we received the news that we will not receive funding for the proposed Tevatron extension and consequently the Tevatron will close at the end of FY2011 as was previously planned. The present budgetary climate did not permit DOE to secure the additional funds needed to run the Tevatron for three more years as recommended by the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel.

We plan to run the Tevatron this year and extract all the physics results we can. The Tevatron has exceeded all expectations. The life of this legendary machine has been marked by historic discoveries made possible by its innovative accelerator and detector technologies. The experience developed during its operation has also immensely helped the development of the LHC accelerator and detectors. Fermilab is and will remain a very strong part of the LHC program and will continue to pursue physics at the high-energy frontier together with our collaborators at CERN.

Read more in Symmetry Breaking...

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