SLAC and Stanford scientists home in on pairs of atoms that boost a catalyst’s activity

A study identified which pairs of atoms in a catalyst nanoparticle are most active in a reaction that breaks down a harmful exhaust gas in catalytic converters. The most active particles contained the biggest proportion of one particular atomic configuration — one where two atoms, each surrounded by seven neighboring atoms, form pairs to carry out the reaction steps. The results are a step toward engineering cheaper, more efficient catalysts.