Friday, April 22, 2011

Catalysts and Solvents: Making Everything Possible

While we like to dwell on more exotic technologies and scientific theories, it is the nuts and bolts of modern industry and industrial scale agriculture which keeps you safe, warm, dry, and well fed. Almost no one likes to think about catalysts and solvents, but the quality of those arcane, mundane, nitty-gritty ingredients of your hidden underworld, determines much of what you can do with yourself.

Some interesting developments in catalysts:

New, cheaper nickel-based catalysts may spark a fuels and chemicals revolution

Newer, cheaper, platinum-free catalysts may open the door to cheap fuel cells, and fuel cell automobiles

Cheap molybdenum catalysts may make electrolysis of water to hydrogen / oxygen cheap and practical

Nanotechnology advances add an extra dimension to progress in catalysts

Solvents are even more easily ignored in everyday discussion than catalysts -- except in the context of a faux environmental armageddon. But they are no less important to everyday life for all of that.

New ionic solvents likely to revolutionise oil sands industry -- making oil sands and heavy oils environmentally friendly and setting back peak oil decades.

Supercritical CO2 and steam are proving to be effective solvents for more and more processes.

The movement toward cleaner, cheaper, more sustainable and effective solvents is accelerating, just like the movement toward better catalysts. And those are just two of the basic foundations of modern life where marginal improvements can pay huge dividents in quality of life.

Paying attention to such things can provide amazing investment opportunities as well.

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