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Have you ever tried baking a cake? And it burned, or had a funny taste, or simply did not become solid? And then wondered what you did wrong? The same is happening when chemists are preparing catalysts. Those catalysts are the secret ingredients that accelerate chemical reactions. That’s why they are used everywhere in production, to make things fast and affordable. But when they are producing catalysts, they need tens of thousands of tries to end up with one good recipe. That does not only cost us a lot of time, but it also produces a lot of waste of precious metals, for example platinum or even gold. So what’s really going wrong all the time? To understand what’s happening, I simulate the baking process with a computer. This way, we can try recipes beforehand and see if they will work, or if the oven is too hot or too cold. So we end with, instead of tens of thousands of tries, maybe five. This way we do not only save a lot of time, but also waste a lot less. In a way, a computer is helping us becoming a better cook.

THE GREAT CATALYST BAKE OFF
DAVID RIEDERPROFILE
Eindhoven University of Technologie

Catalysts are the secret ingredients that speed up reactions, but it takes chemists tens of thousands of tries to find a good catalyst recipe. David Rieder uses a computer to become a better cook.

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