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Catalysis is a core area of contemporary science posing major fundamental and conceptual challenges, while being at the heart of the chemical industry - an immensely successful and important part of the overall UK economy (generating in excess of £50 billion per annum). UK catalytic science currently has a strong presence, but there is intense competition in both academic and industrial sectors, and a need for UK industrial activity to shift towards new innovative areas posing major challenges for the future. In light of these challenges the UK Catalysis Hub endeavours to become a leading institution, both nationally and internationally, in the field and acts to coordinate, promote and advance the UK catalysis research portfolio (UK Catalysis Hub project criteria). With a strong emphasis on effective use of the world-leading facilities on the RAL campus the UK Catalysis Hub has four main themes of research:
Catalyst Design: Led by Professor Richard Catlow
The overall theme of the research is to develop how catalysts work at a molecular level and, from that knowledge, to design new and improved catalysts. The molecular understanding of catalytic processes will lead to an optimisation of catalytic processes that will feed into the other projects. Based at RCaH the UK Catalysis Hub is uniquely placed to benefit from the world-leading facilities on site (ISIS, Diamond Light Source and the CLF) and there will be a strong emphasis on this within the design theme.
|A combined stopped flow UV/XAFS set-up for understanding reaction pathways in homogeneous catalysis|
Catalysis for Chemical Transformations: Led by Professor Matthew Davidson
The development of new sustainable catalyst technologies for organic transformations and their successful implementation across the chemicals sector is perhaps the most important factor in ensuring the future prosperity of a key component of the UK’s manufacturing base. Organic transformations are central to the manufacture of bulk and fine chemicals, pharmaceuticals and polymers; and it is essential that new fundamental research be initiated so that the UK maintains a strong internationally competitive position.
|A molecular dynamics simulation of n-hexane diffusing through zeolite ZSM-5|
Catalysis for Energy: Led by Professor Christopher Hardacre
With decreasing reserves of oil resources, there is a growing need to find a range of alternative energy sources over both short and longer timescales. Moreover, these new energy sources will need to be sustainable and have no or minimal impact on the environment. This field poses substantial scientific and technological challenges in the development of areas such as catalytic reduction of CO2, catalytic biodiesel production and catalytic water-spitting, which will require state of the art tools for catalysts preparation, characterisation, structure/activity/selectivity relations and mechanistic investigations, especially using the facilities at Diamond and ISIS.
A TEM image of a AuPd core-shell nanoparticle
Environmental Catalysis: Led by Professor Graham Hutchings
To protect the environment from the effects of atmospheric pollutants produced by industry and transportation, we need strategies for both cutting emissions at source by improving efficiency, and for intercepting emissions before they are released, using after treatment. Both strategies require the development of highly selective and durable catalysts. We will design catalytic structures, based on nano-scale characterisation and on a detailed understanding of the mechanistic steps in the surface reactions.