Your automobile exhaust system, the plastic cup holding your favorite drink, along with many, many other products, rely upon chemical reactions driven by catalysts supported on aluminum oxides. Characterizing these aluminum oxides or alumina has been challenging. Now, scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and FEI Company obtained an atomically resolved view of the alumina form known as delta alumina. Using experiments and computational approaches, the team showed that the oxide is made up of two crystal forms or variants woven together.
As researchers continue to characterize the structure and behavior of delta alumina and its related polymorph, gamma alumina, “the materials present a lot of questions,” said Dr. Libor Kovarik, PNNL scientist and lead author on the study. “We are working to understand them, particularly the aluminum bonding on the catalysts surface.”