Catalysis

Catalysis is at the heart of every chemical process, from biology to industry. Only by using catalysts can we reduce our footprint on the planet and only catalysts make some processes economically viable.

RCaH is home to the UK Catalysis Hub, which is a thriving and successful network of catalytic scientists who are developing and promoting catalytic science in the UK.

The Hub’s location at RCaH has been key to its success: it is not only geographically central, but also constitutes neutral territory for multidisciplinary, multi-institutional projects.

Access to facilities benefits research and helps foster collaborations at the campus, including with CLF, ISIS and Diamond. This has enabled a new user base and new science to thrive here. Future directions include the introduction of new scientific themes focused on optimising, predicting and designing new catalysts, catalysis for the water/energy network, and catalysis for the circular economy and sustainable manufacturing. These themes will be supported by growing industrial collaborations, an expanding postgraduate programme, and enhanced international partnerships.

In addition to the Hub, RCaH hosts several other groups across the broad theme of catalysis. We have excellent resources and facilities to support research in biological materials, petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

 

Artemis

Artemis investigates ultrafast electron dynamics in condensed matter and gas-phase molecules, and for coherent lensless imaging.

Principal Investigator: Emma Springate

Artemis investigates ultrafast electron dynamics in condensed matter and gas-phase molecules, and for coherent lensless imaging.

Artemis is based on high repetition rate, few optical cycles and widely tuneable laser sources, and ultrafast XUV (10-100 eV) pulses produced through high harmonic generation. We exploit the femtosecond time-resolution afforded by harmonics to use them as ultrafast probes of electron dynamics. Our key technique is time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy with XUV high harmonic probe pulses and we have three dedicated end-stations for gas- and solid-phase experiments. We also exploit the spatial coherence of the XUV to use coherent diffractive imaging techniques.

Artemis will move across the campus to RCaH in late 2018 as part of a major upgrade funded by STFC and BEIS. The upgrade adds a new laser system (a joint purchase with Ultra) and a new XUV beamline. The new laser will use OPCPA technology to provide mid-infrared pulses at 100 kHz repetition rate.

For Artemis, the mid-infrared will enable the generation of higher photon energy XUV pulses and the higher repetition rate allows smaller samples to be studied. For Ultra, the appeal is the ability to provide broader spectral coverage at high repetition rates, for faster data acquisition, and more efficient generation of mid- to far-IR pulses.

Beale Group

Our group is interested in establishing structure-function relationships in catalytic solids as a function of both time and space.

Principal Investigator: Professor Andrew Beale

Our group is interested in establishing structure-function relationships in catalytic solids as a function of both time and space using primarily X-ray based in situ and operando spectroscopic and scattering methods.

Specific areas of interest include the development of novel chemical imaging techniques for the study of catalyst particles under real reaction conditions, determining the nature of the active site and reaction mechanism in catalysts for NOx abatement, methane activation/upgrading, oxygenates to hydrocarbons, unravelling the self-assembly mechanism of the microporous materials and the characterisation of catalytically active supported nanoparticles.

In 2012 we started Finden Ltd, which provides high-end characterisation of solid-state functional materials spanning the fields of catalysis, energy, automotive parts and pharmaceuticals, typically at the critical juncture of scale-up and production.

Central Laser Facility

The CLF is the UK’s national laser facility and offers access to advanced laser technologies. Two facilities, ULTRA and Octopus, are housed at RCaH.

Principal Investigator: Dr David Clarke

The CLF is the UK’s national laser facility and offers access to advanced laser technologies ranging from extremely high power lasers for investigating matter under extreme conditions, to spectroscopy and imaging facilities for life sciences, chemistry and materials research. RCaH houses two of the CLF’s facilities, ULTRA and Octopus. Both facilities are operated by STFC and have received considerable investment from BBSRC and MRC. Access to the facilities for UK academics is free at the point of use, via a peer-reviewed proposal mechanism. Various routes are available for access by industrial users.

ULTRA combines laser, detector and sample manipulation technology to study molecular dynamics to address scientific problems in the physical and life sciences. A range of ultrafast light sources provides unprecedented flexibility to combine multiple beams, multiple colours (UV to mid-IR), mixed timing patterns (fs-µs) and pulse length. ULTRA is one of the world’s most sensitive time-resolved spectrometers and is used to investigate dynamics of complex biological systems such as proteins. ​

Octopus is an advanced imaging facility containing a mixture of in-house-built and commercial systems, offering a range of imaging techniques. These include several modes of multidimensional single molecule microscopy, and structure determination in fixed cells, at ~5nm resolution via fluorescence localisation with photobleaching (FLimP)). Other techniques include super-resolution microscopy (STORM, PALM, SIM, STED), confocal microscopy (FLIM, FRET, and multiphoton), and light sheet microscopy.

ULTRA and Octopus will soon be joined in RCaH by Artemis, the CLF’s facility for ultrafast XUV science. Experiments on Artemis use high harmonics to investigate ultra-fast electron dynamics in condensed matter and gas-phase molecules, and for coherent lensless imaging.

Harwell XPS EPSRC National Facility for X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy

We offer access to state-of-the-art spectrometers for photoelectron spectroscopy in our main laboratory based at RCaH.

Principal Investigator: Professor Philip Davies

We offer access to state-of-the-art spectrometers for photoelectron spectroscopy in our main laboratory based at RCaH. Together with our partner hubs offering specialist analysis at Cardiff University, UCL and the University of Manchester, the Harwell XPS service provides access to a wider range of XPS analysis methods than previously available to UK academia and industry, including:

  • XPS and UPS
  • angle resolved XPS (ARXPS)
  • XPS imaging
  • ion scattering spectroscopy (ISS/LEIS)
  • cluster and monotomic ion depth profiling
  • high energy XPS and near ambient pressure (NAP) XPS
  • high temperature and pressure treatments.

PORTO

PORTO is a portable testbed for ultra-fast measurements of photo-activated changes in chemical and biochemical systems

Principal Investigator: Professor Andrew Dent

PORTO is a portable femtosecond pump-probe laser with a tunable wavelength output covering the UV, visible and near-IR funded by EPSRC, Diamond Light Source and supported by the Central Laser Facility.

PORTO provides a testbed for ultra-fast measurements of photo-activated changes in chemical and biochemical systems and for optimising the design of experiments at Diamond that exploit the relatively short bunch length (40 ps) and flexible bunch structure at the synchrotron.

The PORTO unit is mounted on an optical table; its portability enables it to be transferred to beamlines for performing laser pump/X-ray probe experiments. These experiments include simultaneous probing by UV-visible, IR and X-ray methods to identify transients and track the kinetics of change. PORTO underpins the development of new methodologies for obtaining detailed structural information on short-lived reaction intermediates.

There is worldwide interest in following chemical reactions in real time, from many minutes to femtoseconds. Timescales longer than milliseconds can usually be studied using physical methods such as heating, mixing, P-jump etc., but for faster experiments light induction with powerful lasers using the methodology of pump-probe is required.

PORTO provides an accessible route to the wider scientific community for experiments at Diamond, and ultimately the testing and development of experiments at X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) for studying the dynamics of structural change.

UK Catalysis Hub

Our focus is on developing catalytic processes for more effective use of water and energy, waste minimisation, and material reuse and reduction in gaseous emissions.

Principal Investigator: Professor Richard Catlow

Catalysis lies at the heart of the chemicals industry. In recent years the UK output has totalled over £50 billion annually and is ranked seventh in the world. The UK has maintained its strong position despite immense competition worldwide, but it is essential that innovation in research continues. The UK Catalysis Hub was established in 2013 with this aim.

The science of the UK Catalysis Hub was built round the four themes of design, environment catalysis, energy and chemical transformations. It has supported 82 novel and topical projects in catalytic science (e.g. catalysis for deNOx reactions; biobutanol production and use) and strategically relevant problems such as water purification, particulate destruction in automotive exhaust and clean hydrogen production. Biocatalysis & Biotransformations was added as an additional theme in 2015.

Looking forward, the UK Catalysis Hub will focus on developing new catalytic processes for more effective use of water and energy, waste minimisation, and material reuse and reduction in gaseous emissions. It will have various impacts:

  • Society and Environment: contributing towards environmental sustainability through reduced waste, increased energy and water efficiency and increased use of bio-sourced materials.
  • Economic: through increases in R&D productivity and industrial capability.
  • People: through delivery and training of highly skilled researchers in all areas of catalytic science and engineering.
  • Outreach and Engagement: contributing to disseminating the new methodologies and processes to the academic and industrial communities; increased public awareness and understanding of the scientific, engineering, economic and societal issues associated with catalytic processes.

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