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Researchers at the Paderborn University, Germany have reported being able to make a unique class of catalysts – used in chemistry to accelerate reactions – called “Lewis super-acids” These can be used to break strong chemical bonds and speed up reactions.
Named for the chemist, G N Lewis, Lewis super-acids derive from Lewis acids. A Lewis acid is any substance, such as a Hydrogen ion (H+) that can accept a pair of nonbonding electrons. In other words, a Lewis acid is an electron-pair acceptor. A Lewis base is any substance, such as the OH- ion, that can donate a pair of nonbonding electrons. A Lewis base is therefore an electron-pair donor.
Because Lewis acids add electron pairs, they are often used to speed up chemical reactions. Lewis superacids are stronger than antimony pentafluoride -- the strongest Lewis acid -- and can break even the toughest bonds. Breaking strong, chemical bonds requires highly reactive substances.
Because they are so reactive, they are hard to manufacture however the research team, in a paper, said they used a “trick” to produce these super acids. Being able to make these super acids, enables non-biodegradable fluorinated hydrocarbons, similar to Teflon, and possibly even climate-damaging greenhouse gases, such as sulphur hexafluoride, to be converted back into sustainable chemicals.
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