The UK Catalysis Hub

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Catalysis is a core area of science that lies at the heart of the chemicals industry - an immensely successful and important part of the overall UK economy, where in recent years the UK output has totaled over £50B and is ranked 7th in the world. This position is being maintained in the face of immense competition worldwide. For the UK to sustain its leading position it is essential that innovation in research is maintained, which can be achieved through bringing together the internationally leading academic activity that exists in the UK in this key area of contemporary science. We therefore, aim to create a coordinated UK programme for Catalysis, with a hub in the Research Complex at Harwell, which will help to keep the UK at the forefront of this crucial scientific and technological sector. The location of the hub at Harwell will allow us to interact closely with both central facilities, to whose development the project will contribute, and with the broader scientific community on the Harwell/RAL Campus. The major developments in the in situ characterisation of catalytic materials that have taken place in the recent years have been of immense importance in addressing the complex scientific problems posed by catalytic science. The component of the programme based at the hub will focus on catalyst design and will develop state-of-the art in situ facilities that will be used for experiments to be conducted at the Diamond, Synchrotron Radiation, ISIS Neutron Scattering and Central Laser Facilities. Such experiments will allow us to probe the structure and evolution of catalysts at the molecular level during their operation; but their effectiveness will require integration with a wide ranging modeling programme which will explore and predict catalytic systems and performance across the relevant length and time scles form the nanao - to the macro-level.

The hub will couple with an extensive programme of applications, which will be distributed amongst the extensive rage of collaborating institutions and will be built round the following central themes in contemporary catalytic science:

* Catalysis Design
* Catalysis for Energy
* Chemical Transformations
* Environmental Catalysis

By coordinating the expertise of the collaborative groups, in novel areas of catalytic science with a strong focal point in the Harwell/RAL campus, we will provide a platform for new initiatives that will provide a hub for UK catalysis research and will give substantial added value to the existing investment in catalytic science. Moreover by working together, the UK scientific team will be able take centre stage and lead the world in this crucial field.
The impact of the Centre will be further promoted by a vigorous and effective dissemination strategy which will develop strong interactions with a wide range of academic and industrial groups and with the broader scientific community.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Here we summarise first the overall structure and achievements of the entire Hub project followed by highlighting some
of the key contributions of the Chemical Transformations, Biocatalysis and Environmental Catalysis themes of phase of the UK Catalysis Hub. The UK Catalysis Hub was founded with EPSRC funding in 2013 with three main aims:
• To establish a world-leading, comprehensive and coordinated programme of catalytic science in the UK.
• To develop new knowledge and promote innovation in and translation of catalytic science and technology.
• To enable the UK to regain and retain a world leading position in catalysis.
The Hub has fully achieved these objectives: it has coordinated and developed the UK catalysis community; it has established strong and enduring interactions with UK industry; and it is now widely known and recognised internationally. Key to its success has been its inclusivity, its effective management structure (described in more detail in the
Management Plan), and its physical hub, based in the Research Complex (RCaH) on the Harwell campus. Its network over 40 university groups around the UK now includes the majority of academic catalytic scientists, whilst its wide ranging scientific programme is increasingly integrating different fields within catalytic science. Its physical centre on the
Harwell campus has provided a focus for the community and has facilitated the application to catalytic science of the world-class neutron, synchrotron and laser facilities on the campus. Through both its scientific programme and its vibrant programme of activities (conferences, specialised workshops and outreach activities), the Hub has energised a broad
community of scientists, facilitating collaboration through multidisciplinary and multi-institution projects. One example of how the Hub science has delivered in the first phase has been in the development of new catalysts for the replacement of petrochemically derived plastics with renewable materials based on bio-based feedstocks and CO2 (Williams et al., Nature, (2016), 540, 354). This key challenge for sustainable materials requires new robust and selective catalysts to be developed. Within the Catalysis Hub, a multi-institutional team, together with scientists from Harwell, have made major progress, in particular though a combination of synthetic, spectroscopic (XAS) and computational (DFT) techniques. One project has enabled the development of new selective catalytic processes for ring-opening polymerisation of commercially important renewable monomers and a detailed study of the properties and performances of various catalysts enabling carbon dioxide/epoxide copolymerisation. Catalysts have been discovered that are able to operate switchable polymerisation to generate block sequence selectivity: an important goal in realising sustainable functional materials of the future. This latter phenomenon is very unusual and the collaboration has enabled a detailed study of the both the experimental factors controlling it (kinetics/spectroscopy) and a computational approach to probing the process by DFT calculations, revealing both a kinetic and thermodynamic basis for the observed selectivity,
Exploitation Route The research of the hub has been widely disseminated and is being continued in an number of research groups across the UK
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Education,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://www.uckcatalysishub.co.uk
 
Description Selective Polymerisation The research investigated using the Hub funding remains at an early stage as would be expected with EPSRC funded fundamental research. Nonetheless, the target area - making useful products from carbon dioxide, is one in which there is potential for both environmental and commercial impact. It is relevant to note that there is a UK based company, Econic technologies, formed on the basis of earlier catalytic science from C. K. Williams which has commercialized catalysts for carbon dioxide/epoxide copolymerization (http://www.econic-technologies.com/). The product polycarbonate polyols are attracting increasing industrial attention as components in polyurethanes, a large commodity sector of the polymer market. Thus, the discoveries of the EPSRC Catalysis Hub funding are relevant to an emerging sector in both the polymer and polymerization catalysis sectors. There is also a demonstrated environmental benefit to using carbon dioxide to make polymers - in effect there is a 'triple win' as for every tonne of carbon dioxide used to make polymers, there is a three-tonne saving in CO2 emissions. This arises because the carbon dioxide replaces epoxide in the conventional process and thus by avoiding petrochemical useage there are emissions savings also. The early-stage research in catalysis funded by the UK Catalysis Hub has allowed a broader range of polymers to be prepared from CO2. This is important because in future equivalent cost and environmental benefits could be envisaged in sectors beyond polyurethanes. For example, some of the polymers prepared using the switchable catalysis show good elastomeric behaviour so may be suitable as replacements for commodity materials like SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene). Another impact area that has been developed thanks to the Catalysis Hub funding has been the outreach and demonstration of the concept to the general public. The Imperial College London/Oxford team have participated in two large-scale outreach activities - the imperial College London Festival which attracted >10,000 members of the public in May 2015 and 2016. The Williams team presented the science behind carbon dioxide to polymers, including demonstrating a Co2-emittting 'factory' (a shoe box loaded with dry-ice and water) which was very popular, especially with families. It allowed the public to imagine the way that carbon dioxide emissions may one day be able to be transformed into useful products. The festival was held over two days and the group also participated in a schools outreach event each year. Furthermore, Charlotte Williams has presented the carbon dioxide catalysis on the Radio 4 programme, 'Costing the earth' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b081lkm1) which was broadcast in November 2016.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Chemicals,Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Collaboration with HoneyWell for onic Liquid-Metal Oxide Composite Catalysts for Beckmann Rearrangement 
Organisation Honeywell UK
Country Unknown 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Key findings 1. A method for developing metal oxide-ionic liquid hybrid catalysts in which the ionic liquid is tethered to suitable supports. 2. A range of analytical and spectroscopic techniques have been employed to evaluate the physico-chemical properties of parent oxides and ionic liquid tethered oxides. 3. Liquid phase Beckmann experiments have been performed to investigate the structure-activity correlation of ionic liquid-metal oxide composites. 4. Promising combinations of ionic liquid and support oxides have been identified by screening experiments with respect to the porosity, type of framework, the presence of silanol groups in parent oxides, bulkiness and hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties of ions.
Collaborator Contribution Intellectual involvement in the project
Impact Key findings 1. A method for developing metal oxide-ionic liquid hybrid catalysts in which the ionic liquid is tethered to suitable supports. 2. A range of analytical and spectroscopic techniques have been employed to evaluate the physico-chemical properties of parent oxides and ionic liquid tethered oxides. 3. Liquid phase Beckmann experiments have been performed to investigate the structure-activity correlation of ionic liquid-metal oxide composites. 4. Promising combinations of ionic liquid and support oxides have been identified by screening experiments with respect to the porosity, type of framework, the presence of silanol groups in parent oxides, bulkiness and
Start Year 2017
 
Description Syngenta Title: Hydrogenation of Organic compounds: Electrochemical Intervention to Optimized catalysts (imperial) 
Organisation Syngenta International AG
Country Global 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Sulfur compounds with sulfur in different oxidation state, -2, +3 and +4, poison Pt-catalysts, with the extent of poisoning being reflected in the hydrogen adsorption reaction. The degree of poisoning varies with different sulfur oxidation state in both aqueous and non-aqueous medium. Ultimately, electrochemical methods could be employed in-situ to probe the status of catalysts. 2. Poisoned Pt catalysts can be renewed by consecutive potential cycling. The potential limit required for acetic acid medium is 300 mV higher than for aqueous medium. 3. X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) analysis has demonstrated the conversion of sulfur to sulfate during the recovery process. 4. Using well-define Pt single crystal electrodes, the surface structure impacts on the regeneration has been established
Collaborator Contribution This project had strong support from Syngenta. The company has provided platinum nanoparticle samples used for this project and Drs Lai and Brennan (Syngenta) have attended progress meetings. There has been two-way exchange of researchers between the University of Warwick and Syngenta to discuss results and generate ideas.
Impact This project has provided major new insights as to how different sulfur-containing species poison platinum electrocatalysts, how this can be detected easily by electrochemistry, and how electrochemistry can be further used to regenerate the catalysts. Thus, avenues for impact include: (a) Developing an electrochemical sensor to be deployed in-situ during hydrogenation reactions (to monitor reaction conditions), or even (easier) to quickly assess the quality of solvents coming into a plant. (b) Developing electrochemical methods to regenerate catalysts or elucidate oxidation potentials required and suitable molecular oxidants.
Start Year 2017
 
Description TAlks at UKCC 2016,17,18,19 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talks at the annual UK Catalysis conference including running a theme on polymers and circular economy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description UK Catalyiss HUb confnerences 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact bi-annual Conference for the UK catalyis hub Conferences 120 people per confnenrence for hub and wider community,
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013