Virotubes – Are virus assemblies the future of catalyst supports?

Górzny et al. chose an unusual support material for their noble metal catalysts: The tubular structures that are formed by self-assembly of tobacco mosaic virus particles. On these biological fibrils, the authors deposited high-aspect-ratio, high-surface-area platinum nanotubes. Their innovative approach led to novel one-dimensional architectures with some remarkable properties.

In their study, platinum salts were reduced by the solvent methanol in the presence of the viral template. The obtained nanotubes consisted of interconnecting, size-tunable nanoparticles. Compared to unsupported particles, the tubes showed an impressive 4 to 8 fold increase in surface area, while the platinum loading was significantly reduced compared to previous studies.

The nanotubes were tested as potential anode catalysts for direct methanol fuel cells, and the prepared anodes showed an increase in electrocatalytic activity by 65% compared to nanoparticle-based electrodes. Taking all of these findings into account, the reported strategy and material seem to hold much promise for the development of novel, improved inorganic catalysts.

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