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Tunable Catalysts

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

For automobile manufacturers using expensive noble metals to make vehicle catalytic converters, often with limited lifetimes, Berkeley Lab Tunable Catalysts, made with affordable metals, utilize graphene to electrically tune the converting rate efficacy and efficiency of catalysts. 


Industrial manufacturers of catalytic converters for vehicle exhaust systems are limited to using catalytic converters made of noble metals, such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. In addition to being expensive, the lifetime of these conventional catalysts is also limited.

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a method for electrically tuning the converting rate efficacy and efficiency of catalysts. To control the gas-phase CO oxidation reaction in an automobile’s exhaust system, for example, the technique places a layer of metal nanocatalyst (e.g., gold) on top of a graphene monolayer, for which electron density can be readily tuned by an electrical charge. The surface charge of the graphene layer changes the surface state of the nanocatalyst and therefore tunes its catalytic performance. The external electricity can reduce the activation energy, leading to faster reactions and higher energy efficiencies than conventional thermal-activated systems.

The tunable catalysts can be fabricated using techniques commonly used by industry today. In addition, because the invention can use materials such as copper or nickel for the catalyst instead of noble metals, it offers significant cost savings in materials in addition to improved performance.

  • Maximizes performance of catalytic materials without additional expense
  • Can utilize affordable metals for the catalyst instead of expensive noble metals
Applications and Industries
  • Catalytic converters for vehicle exhaust systems
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated

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To: Shanshan Li<>