Interest in gold catalysts has burgeoned and Catalysis by gold is a timely, thorough and lucid summary of the whole field

Catalysis by gold  

Geoffrey Bond, Catherine Louis and David Thompson 

London, UK: Imperial College Press | 2006 | 384pp | ?51.00 (HB) | ISBN 9781860946585 

Reviewed by Adrian Taylor

It is some 20 years since the remarkably high activity of suitably prepared gold-based catalysts was demonstrated. Since then interest in gold catalysts has burgeoned and Catalysis by gold  is a timely, thorough and lucid summary of the whole field.  

Whether you are new to catalysis or have been active in the field of catalysis by gold for many years you will find this book invaluable. Its well-referenced chapters, with over 1400 citations, present a treasure-trove of information and links to the primary literature. Half of the book is devoted to a review of the many reactions catalysed by gold, often under mild conditions. These are collected into broad categories and include selective oxidation of alkenes, sugars and CO in the presence of hydrogen, chemoselective hydrogenation of alkenals, water gas shift and ozone decomposition. A short chapter on the newer field of homogeneous catalysis by gold is included. There is speculation on mechanisms, but more work is needed before definitive statements can be made. 

Potential commercial applications are discussed: already in existence are a 50 tonne per annum pilot plant for the conversion of ethylene glycol to methyl glycolate (Nippon Shokubai), a micro fuel cell (Qinetiq) and an automobile emission control system (Toyota). 

The book also reviews the critical influence of method of preparation, and the chemisorptive and electronic properties of gold in massive and small particle form. Relativistic effects in the chemistry of gold, the aurophilic bond and the transition from metallic to non-metallic behaviour for small particles are all covered. References to a good number of density functional theory calculations are provided - although discussion of the results is limited in most cases. A concise general introduction to heterogeneous catalysis by metals is included. 

Minor niggles include a few typographical errors, a reference to the application of reflection-absorption infrared spectroscopy to powders and an unreferenced statement that platinum will dissociatively chemisorb hydrogen at liquid hydrogen temperatures. 

Overall I thoroughly recommend this book - it deserves a place on your bookshelf next to its elder brother, Bond’s Catalysis by metals. If you had previously dismissed gold catalysts as a curiosity active only for the low temperature oxidation of CO your eyes will be opened.