Catalysts are used to speed up the rate of a chemical reaction. For example, the catalytic converter in automobiles speeds up the breakdown of engine exhaust gases to harmless carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water. Catalysis is important in chemical production. Catalysts can reduce the time and amount of energy used in producing chemicals. The search for better catalysts is an important part of green chemistry.
Green chemistry is predicated upon efficiency. An efficient chemical process minimizes the amount of energy and resources used to produce a product. Reduction or elimination of hazardous solvents and reactants means less money spent on treatment and disposal of toxic waste. Decisions made early in the design of a chemical plant can make a big difference to the bottom line.
Wildcat Metallurgy LLC is developing nontoxic fusible alloy catalysts for use in continuous-flow chemical reactors. (Fusible means low-melting point, as is the case for alloys used in electrical fuses.) Most catalytic systems rely on solid particles supported on an inert scaffold or suspended in a liquid solution. The CatAlloy molten metal catalysts operate in a liquid state at temperatures below the boiling point of many solvents, opening new approaches to chemical processing which are only now being explored.
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