A Childish Christmas Picture is Actually a 5-Nanometre Chemical Catalyst

By Jamie Condliffe on at

What happens if you take 1,680 titanium atoms and 180 platinum atoms, then add a Christmas-spirited team of scientists? A nanoscale catalyst to help split water into hydrogen, with more than a passing resemblance to a snowman, is what.

This piece of festive art may look like a child’s drawing, but it was in fact created by the Nanoscale Physics Research Lab in Birmingham. It’s made up of platinum clusters embedded into a titanium dioxide face, and each one measures just 5 nanometres across.

In theory, it can be used to speed up the reaction where water is split into its constituent elements — the process through which hydrogen is made for fuel cells. The (sadly) false-colour image was captured using an aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope. [PhysOrg]

Image by Nanoscale Physics Research Lab

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