Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry and Chemical Eng


Mankind faces great challenges in providing sufficient supplies of renewable energy, in protecting our environment, and in developing benign processes for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. These urgent problems can only be solved by applying the best available technology, but this requires a solid foundation of fundamental knowledge created through a multidisciplinary yet focussed approach. Catalysis is an essential enabling technology because it holds the key to solving many of these problems. CASTech aims to build on the science and engineering advances developed in previous collaborative programmes involving the main participants. Specifically, new core competencies for the investigation of reactions in multiphase systems will be developed. These will include MR imaging techniques (University of Cambridge, UCam); computational fluid dynamics (UCam); spectroscopic methods (QUB); SSITKA (QUB); flow visualisation and particle tracking (PEPT) (University of Birmingham, UBir); theoretical calculations (University of Virginia, UVa; QUB) for liquid phase processes. An enhanced time resolution fast transient and operando spectroscopy capability will be developed for investigating the mechanisms and the nature of the active sites in heterogeneous catalytic gas phase reactions (QUB). These core competencies will be applied to investigate the activation of saturated alkanes, initially building on our recent success in oxidative cracking of longer chain alkanes.We propose to develop our experimental and modelling capabilities with the objective of providing quantitative data on how to enhance the performance of a catalytic system by understanding and controlling the interaction between the solvent(s), the substrates and the catalyst surface. We aim to be able to describe the structure of liquids in catalytic systems at multiscale from the external (bulk) liquid phase to inside the porous structure of the catalyst and at the catalyst surface. The research will integrate new experimental probes and complementary theoretical approaches to help us understand liquid structures and we will use this information in collaboration with our industrial partners to address specific technical challenges.Bio-polymeric materials, e.g. cellulose and lignin, have the potential to provide functionalised building blocks for both existing and novel chemical products. Our ultimate aim is to provide novel and economically viable processes for the conversion of lignin into high value-added products. However, by starting with the conversion of lignosulphonates into vanillin and other higher value chemicals we will develop not only new processes but also the core competencies required to work with more complex fluids.Biogas (CH4 + CO2) can be produced from many different renewable sources but capturing and storing the energy is difficult on a small distributed scale. We propose to investigate a new, economic, down-sized engineering approach to the conversion of methane to dimethylether. This will be achieved by reducing the number of unit operations and developing new catalysts capable of performing under the more extreme temperature conditions that will be required to make the process economic.The drive to use catalysts for cleaner more sustainable chemistry needs also to address the inherently polluting and unsustainable process of catalyst manufacture itself. We will investigate the sustainable production of supported catalysts using electrochemical deposition of the metal. This method bypasses several conventional steps and would generate very little waste. In all these Grand Challenges there will be close collaboration between all the academic and industrial groups.


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Abdelkader A (2013) Steam reforming of ethanol over Co3O4-Fe2O3 mixed oxides in International Journal of Hydrogen Energy

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Akpa B (2012) Solvent effects in the hydrogenation of 2-butanone in Journal of Catalysis

Description The research has provided a much better understanding of how chemical processes operate, both for reactions in the gas phase and for reactions in the liquid phase. This has enabled reactions to be performed more selectively with the production of less waste products. In addition, the research has led to the development of new processes that can operate at much lower temperatures and pressures than existing processes and so very significant energy and materials savings can be achieved.
Exploitation Route The fundamental understanding of catalytic reactions in the gas phase or in the liquid phase that has been obtained in this research provides a basis for developing new catalysts and catalytic processes based on scientific knowledge rather than existing knowhow or through a programme of empirical experimentation. In future it will become possible to design new catalysts with specific functions and to determine scientifically how to use these to best advantage in a chemical process.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Our research has had both academic and commercial impact. The work has generated more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, including a significant number of joint papers from the participating institutions.There has been an ongoing and substantial amount of technology transfer from the academic groups to three of the industrial partners namely, Johnson Matthey, Robinson Brothers and Borregaard. Several new processes are being evaluated for possible commercialisation.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Economic

Description ICC conference 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Conference presentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description UKCC 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Organisation of the UK Catalysis Conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017