The metal used to make aluminum can be a catalyst for some of the same reactions that happen when aluminum oxide is heated, a new study shows.
Aluminium oxide is one of the metals used to manufacture aluminum, but its chemistry is different from other metals that can be formed during the process.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, suggests that aluminium can also be used to form some of these reactions.
“This suggests that the metal is used to create the other materials in the metal’s structure,” said study lead author Euan M. Byrne, a chemical engineer at Michigan State University.
“Aluminum oxide can be produced in the same way as aluminum oxide, but it’s a more specific metal that is more stable.”
The research team used a process known as metallothionein-catalyzed carbonylation to synthesize aluminium oxide from carbon dioxide, a common source of carbon dioxide in a car engine.
They then used that metal as a catalyst, heating the mixture with a catalyst to produce aluminium oxide.
They found that the reaction took place in just a few hours.
It also happened to produce a lot of aluminium oxide and carbon dioxide as well as other compounds that are important to the reaction.
The work suggests that aluminum can also help in the production of other metals.
“We were really excited about the reaction we were able to create,” Byrne said.
“It has a lot to do with the properties of the metal itself, which is what we were trying to understand.”
The metal also has other uses in the world of materials science.
In a related study, Byrne’s team reported in Nature Nanotech that aluminium oxide is also an excellent catalyst for catalyzing reactions in organic materials, such as those that produce hydrogen, carbon dioxide and oxygen.
The scientists were surprised by how quickly the reactions were produced, Byrne said, because they did not expect them to occur that quickly.
They expect the reaction to be useful in other applications in the future.
“One of the things that makes it so appealing is the ability to be reactive in a way that you can’t be reactive with other materials,” Byrne explained.
“You can’t do reactive reactions with aluminum or lead or copper or other materials.
Aluminum is a catalyst that has a wide range of applications in chemistry, so we’re really excited to see how it can be applied to a wide variety of materials.”
Byrne and his colleagues are currently investigating how the process works.
The next step is to see if the reaction produces the same results when used in an industrial setting.
Byrne is planning to try to use this process to produce aluminum oxide in the United States to help meet global demand for aluminum in the automotive industry.
The study was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
Byrne was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
This article was originally published on The Conversation.