New green catalysts

Iron-based catalysts that side step the need for rare precious metals have been developed by researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada. Robert Morris and colleagues have replaced ruthenium, rhodium, palladium and platinum with iron in their novel catalysts for use in a wide range of reactions involved in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, perfumes and other fine chemicals. There is a research effort world-wide to make chemical processes more sustainable and green, by replacing the rare, expensive and potentially toxic elements used in hydrogenation, catalytic converters in cars, fuel cells for the efficient conversion of chemical energy into electricity, and silicone coatings, with abundant ions such as iron, explains Morris. We found a way to make the ferrous form of iron behave in a catalytic process much more efficiently than a precious metal, he adds.