On Friday (29 June 2012), Science told the world how a collaboration of scientists created something uniquely un-abstract. A group of engineers at the University of Minnesota, along with other international scientists, used nanosheets at 90-degree angles in catalyzing oil; almost like curtains attached between bars of scaffolding.
But what for? All the gas we use once needed a catalyst to be turned from oil into useable gasoline. During the traditional refining process, oil molecules clog their filters and it takes a significant amount of time for oil to reach the catalyst. However, this 90-degree design allows for speedy access to the catalyst. The economic impacts of this could trickle down as far a lowering the price of gasoline and other related products, such as plastics. Furthermore, the method can potentially be applied to other refining processes for biofuels and natural gas, to name a few.
While the project was made possible by a multiple funding sources, some of its funding came from IonE's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. Needless to say, efficiency is a surefire way of greening most processes and these scientists found efficiency for a basic chemical we rely on every day: oil.