In situ aberration corrected-transmission electron microscopy of magnesium oxide nanocatalysts for biodiesels

Pratibha L. Gai, Janine M. Montero, Adam F. Lee, Karen Wilson, Edward D. Boyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Biofuels are promising renewable energy sources and can be derived from vegetable oil feedstocks. Although solid catalysts show great promise in plant oil triglyceride transesterification to biodiesel, the identification of active sites and operating surface nanostructures created during their processing is essential for the development of efficient heterogeneous catalysts. Systematic, direct observations of dynamic MgO nanocatalysts from a magnesium hydroxide-methoxide precursor were performed under controlled calcination conditions using novel in situ aberration corrected-transmission electron microscopy at the 0.1 nm level and quantified with catalytic reactivity and physico-chemical studies. Surface structural modifications and the evolution of extended atomic scale glide defects implicate coplanar anion vacancies in active sites in the transesterification of triglycerides to biodiesel. The linear correlation between surface defect density (and therefore polarisability) and activity affords a simple means to fine tune new, energy efficient nanocatalysts for biofuel synthesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-188
Number of pages7
JournalCatalysis Letters
Volume132
Issue number1-2
Early online date15 Jul 2009
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2009

Keywords

  • in situ-aberration corrected TEM
  • MgO
  • biodiesel
  • nanoparticles

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