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Episode Info:

Research on perovskites has progressed rapidly for PV and LEDs, with new solar-cell efficiency records being set at a regular pace. There are hints of the first commercial products reaching the market by 2020, just a decade since perovskite photovoltaics were first discovered. MRS Bulletin presents the impact of a recent advance in this burgeoning field.

Read the abstract in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (doi:10.1021/jacs.8b08720).

Welcome to MRS Bulletin’s Materials News Podcast, providing breakthrough news & interviews with researchers on the hot topics of 3D bioprinting, artificial intelligence and machine learning, bioelectronics, perovskites, quantum materials, robotics, and synthetic biology. My name is Bob Braughler.  

While lead-halide perovskites have revolutionized photovoltaics, they have also shown promise for lasers, light-emitting diodes, and transistors. Now, researchers show that perovskite nanocrystals are also highly effective catalysts for organic synthesis. 

Reactions that form carbon–carbon bonds are the basis of synthesizing drugs, plastics, and chemicals. But the reaction procedures are complicated and require expensive noble metal catalysts. A research team led by Yong Yan at San Diego State University found that colloids of methylammonium lead tribromide and cesium lead tribromide are 1000 times as effective as iridium- and ruthenium-based catalysts for catalyzing the α-alkylation of aldehydes, a valuable and widely used chemical reaction. The perovskites cost approximately 100 times less. For the simple one-pot reaction, the researchers mixed organic starting materials into a suspension of the perovskite nanocrystals. Blue-light illumination triggers reactions that generate several products. By tweaking the reaction condition, the researchers can selectively catalyze other important chemical reactions. 

This work was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. My name is Bob Braughler from the Materials Research Society. 

For more news, log onto the MRS Bulletin website at and follow us on twitter, @MRSBulletin. Thank you for listening. 

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