June 2010

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Science: Future of Metals by Lu Ke

Lu Ke, research professor and director of the Center for Strategic Research on the Development of Materials, Institute of Metal Research, CAS wrote a prospective article entitled “the Future of Metals” at the invitation of Science, which was published on the Apr. 16 issue of Science. Based on the recent strategic research achievements of the Center, exploration and prosepection were presented in the article regarding the performance characteristics of metal materials and the development trend of their future application. Lu pointed out in this article that due to the low specific strength and specific stiffness of metals, the share of metals in engineering materials has been diminishing. In the application fields (such as aircrafts and sports equipment) where weight is a primary concern, metals are gradually replaced by other materials. However, thanks to unique properties of metals, such as high strength, high fracture toughness, uniform in all directions, predictability of strength, unique magnetic properties, good overall mechanical properties at medium to high temperature and recyclability, metals are still irreplaceable in many industrial fields, particularly in the application fields with high requirement for reliability and durability. The article also pointed out that the modern technology not only strongly relies on these unique properties of metals, but urgently calls for even better metals. Increasing the strength of metals without sacrificing other properties is critical for their competitiveness. Multi-scale hierarchical structures provide a possible route to optimizing overall properties. Metals may also be mixed with other materials in a controlled way to form composite structures. Assembling metals with other components in this way – for example, in novel reinforcements or hierarchical assemblies – may obtain optimal strength and toughness. Development in different material families may thus benefit from each other, while the performance of metals is upgraded.

Breakthrough in Catalysis Basic Research

Fu Qiang, Ma Ding and Bao Xinhe from the Nano and Interface Catalysis Research Group, State Key Laboratory of Catalysis, in cooperation with Li Weixue and other research fellows from the Theoretical Catalysis Research Group that are all from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, CAS, using the interface confinement effect produced by strong interaction between the surface of precious metal and iron atoms in the single-layer thin film of ferrous oxides and on the basis of surface science measurements and density functional calculations, successfully built coordinative unsaturated ferrous (CUF). The interface-confined CUF sites together with the metal support demonstrated unique catalytic activity in the low temperature activation of molecular oxygen. When it was used in the preferential oxidation of CO in hydrogen-rich stream (CO PROX), under actual working conditions (60-80℃ and in the presence of steam and CO2) of proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), it successfully and efficiently eliminated trace CO in fuel hydrogen. This result was published on the May 28 issue of Science (Science 2010, 328, 1141) in the form of research report. The U.S. C&E News and the U.K. Chemistry World also reported accordingly.

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