Scientists at National Taiwan University (NTU) said recently that a newly-invented catalyst which brings about a chemical reaction to transform poisonous carbon monoxide into less-harmful carbon dioxide could reduce or prevent accidents resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The catalyst could be used in the production of masks used in fire accidents and the improvement of fuel cells, said Mou Chung-yuan, a NTU chemistry professor. "If the catalyst can be firmly attached to masks, victims at the scene of a fire might inhale less carbon monoxide."

In addition, Mou said, the catalyst, which involves gold-silver bimetallic nanoparticles, can be used in the pre-production of fuel cells. Although gold is among the most stable, incorruptible substances known to mankind, recent nanotechnology research showed that the element works very well as a catalyst. When gold is coprecipitated with certain metal-oxide supports, the resulting catalysts are very active for carbon monoxide oxidation. Gold nanoparticles, however, only have a 30 percent success rate. To improve its effectiveness as a catalyst, Mou and his NTU teammates started developing new catalysts by using nanotechnology two years ago. Their results suggest that a new catalyst made from gold-silver bimetallic nanoparticles could significantly increase the success rate to almost 100 percent at room temperature.

"Experimental results suggest that the bimetallic catalyst, whose ratio of gold to silver is five to one, can help to effectively oxidize carbon monoxide," Mou said. The gold-silver bimetallic nanoparticles are supported by mesoporous silica with a diameter of between 2nm and 6nm.

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