The UK Catalysis Hub

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Chemistry


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 range 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.


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Aitchison H (2016) Homogeneous Ethanol to Butanol Catalysis-Guerbet Renewed in ACS Catalysis

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Bahruji H (2018) Hydrogenation of CO 2 to Dimethyl Ether over Brønsted Acidic PdZn Catalysts in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research

Description This is one of four awards that have enabled the UK Catalysis Hub to be established. 8 initial projects have been set up in the Environment theme of the UK Catalysis Hub and all pdras have been appointed. Key discoveries to date have included a new route to methanol from glycerol and a new catalyst for hydrogen peroxide synthesis
The UK catalysis Hub has over the past 5 years developed a vibrant program of research integrated across the UK. This research has lead toover 200 publications across heterogeneous, homogeneous biocatalysis and engineering including journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Chemistry, Angewante and Chemical Reviews . The research has been represented at numerous international conferences including the International Catalysis Congress (ICC-2016) British Zeolite association conference, , Gordon Research Conferences June 2016 and multiple Faraday discussions. By having a number of calls for research the hub has funded 82 projects across its scientific themes and has evolved to keep addressing key current and future challenges - e.g. Catalysits for deNox reactions, and biobutanol productions - as well as ongoing support for strategically relevant problems such as water purification and particulate destruction in automotive exhaust. The use and development of Biocatalysis and biotransformations was identified as a key, industrially relevant are of research and was expanded by the addition of the Biocatalysis and Biotransformation's theme.
The Catalysis Hub has developed strong relationships with the world leading facilities on the Harwell campus including Diamond, ISIS and the Central Laser Facility (CLF).The Catalysis Hub in association with Diamond has run a highly successful Block allocation Group (BAG) on the Core XAFS beamline and has supported more than 20 research groups across ten institutions including new users. This access to beam time has resulted in more than 32 publications. The hub has also developed a number of insitu analysis techniques including operando XAFS/DRIFTS techniques (Chem. Mater., 2015, 27 (10), pp 3714-3720) and ongoing projects include the development of combines SpaciFB-XAS techniques A strong relationship with ISIS has focused on community engagement as well as scientific research through conference and workshops (neutrons for catalysis November 2015 organised) has lead to increased uptake of neutron techniques for catalysis there has been an increase in catalysis related proposal with approximately 20% beamtime on the QENS instruments is catalysis,(15% due to the Hub), 40% on MAPS is catalysis, (20% Hub related), and 60% beamtime on TOSCA is catalysis(30% from the Hub) .The existence of the Hub is providing some of the drivers for upgrades to instruments and is certainly the major driver for the proposed catalysis lab within ISIS and based on research supported by the HUB isis scientist are developing (quasi) insitu techniques in this e.g for QUENS . Work by Hub member James McGregor (Sheffield) has lead to a catalysis Hub project on Optical tweezers for interrogation of catalysis at Cardiff and the CLF and projects funded by the hub and Researchers supported by the Hub (Beale, UCL) have developed techniques including Kerr gated Raman and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM) for catalysis applications. The applications of Laser techniques for catalysis was disseminated to the community in a workshop organised in collaboration with the CLF (Lasers for catalysis may 2016)
Exploitation Route We are interacting with industry to take the discoveries forward
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment

Description 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 Annex) and its physical hub, based in the Research Complex (RCaH) on the Harwell campus. Its network of forty-one university groups around the UK now includes the great majority of academic catalytic scientists, while its wide ranging scientific programme is increasingly integrating the different fields within catalytic science. Its physical centre at 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 its scientific programme and its wide ranging and vibrant programme of activities including conferences, specialised workshops and outreach activities, the Hub has energised a broad community of scientists and facilitated wide ranging collaboration through multidisciplinary and multi-institution projects. Scientific Programme and Structure The science of the UK Catalysis Hub was originally built round the four themes of Catalysis Design (PI Catlow), Environmental Catalysis (PI Hutchings), Catalysis for Energy (PI Hardacre) and Chemical Transformations (PI Davidson. These initial research projects successfully established the programme. Subsequently the Hub has supported eighty-two novel and topical projects in catalytic science, following calls for project proposals across its scientific themes (with the procedures used in selecting projects summarised in the Technical annex). This approach has allowed Hub science to evolve and to address key current and future challenges - e.g. catalysis for deNOx reactions, and biobutanol production and utilisation - as well as ongoing support for strategically relevant problems such as water purification, particulate destruction in automotive exhaust and clean hydrogen production. One of the most important developments concerned the use and development of Biocatalysis and Biotransformations (PI Turner) which was identified as a key, industrially relevant area of research and with EPSRC support was added as a 5th theme in 2015. The Harwell Hub The physical hub in the RCaH has been crucial to the success of the whole Hub project. It has provided first class facilities for research in catalytic science, including a suite of catalysis laboratories for the preparation and analysis for Hub research which not only supports the Design theme, based in the RCaH, but also act as a resource for the whole community. The laboratories have been used effectively by visiting scientists including those undertaking experimental work on the central facilities; and have been visited by groups across the UK, while promoting fruitful interactions with other groups in the RCAH and the Harwell campus more broadly. The Hub has supported early career researchers from eight institutions to collaborate with Hub scientists through the affiliate researcher scheme (eight early career researchers from eight institutions and PDRAS have been supported to collaborate with the Hub). In addition, it has housed a successful team of graduate students (currently thirteen) who have responded well to the scientific environment of the Harwell campus. The campus has also proved to be a very effective base for the Hub's community building and development activities; while the proximity of the RCaH to the central facilities on the campus has facilitated the growth of their use in catalytic science as summarised below. Exploitation of Facilities A key component of the work of the Hub, which has been coordinated by the Design theme, has been its strong relationships with the world leading facilities on the Harwell campus, including the Diamond Light Source, the ISIS neutron facility and more recently the Central Laser Facility (CLF); where work of the Hub team has led to the growing use and development of the facilities for catalytic science. Notable achievements include: • X-Ray spectroscopy in catalytic science; where the Catalysis Hub in association with Diamond has led a highly successful Block Allocation Group (BAG) on the Core XAFS beamline and has supported more than 20 research groups across ten institutions including new users, resulting in more than 32 publications. The hub has also developed a number of in situ analysis techniques including operando XAFS/DRIFTS technique, which has been widely used by the catalysis community. • Development of tomographic imaging: A novel and significant development using both DIAMOND and ESRF facilities which has allowed the imaging of real catalytic system in operando. • Growth in the application of neutron scattering techniques; especially neutron spectroscopy. Here our strong relationship with ISIS has focused on community engagement as well as scientific research through conference and workshops (e.g. neutrons for catalysis in November 2015) and has led to a large increase in the use of neutron techniques for catalysis. Particularly notable has been the rapid growth in the use inelastic neutron scattering (INS) for in situ spectroscopy and Quasi Elastic Neutron Scattering (QENS) and small angle scattering probing molecular transport, surface speciation and confined liquid structures for a range of catalytic systems. Exemplar studies have been highlighted in a recent special issue of PCCP on "Neutron scattering in catalysis and energy materials," (Phys Chem Phys 18 2016) which was edited by Hub scientists (Silverwood, Parker and Catlow). The Hub is also incentivising instrument upgrades and is the major driver for the proposed catalysis laboratory within ISIS. • Development of laser techniques in catalytic science, where McGregor (Sheffield) has led a Hub project on Optical tweezers for interrogation of catalysts and Beale, (RCaH, UCL) has developed techniques including Kerr gated Raman and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM) for catalysis applications. The applications of Laser techniques for catalysis was disseminated to the community in a workshop organised in collaboration with the CLF (Lasers for catalysis in May 2016). Dissemination, Advocacy and Outreach The Hub has supported dissemination and interaction of the community through biannual conferences for the Hub network, which have led to innovation in catalytic science. (For example a lecture by Aldridge (Oxford, chemistry)) led to a new collaboration and project in biocatalysis with St Andrews (Kamer)) which has the resulted in development of new catalytic processes exploiting our existing FLP catalysts. The Hub has organised a number of external conferences including two Faraday Discussions and two Royal Society Discussion meetings which have promoted the interaction with the wider national and international community. In addition, the Hub has supported the development of an annual UK Catalysis Conference covering all aspects of catalytic science and engineering now in its 4th year with annual participation of over two hundred UK researchers from academia and industry. The Hub has also sponsored a number of workshops for the use of new techniques in catalysis including EPR, Advanced materials and Synchrotron techniques; neutron scattering in catalysis; as well as consulting on the development of an industrial beamline for catalysis with Diamond. International engagement has included joint workshops with catalytic scientists in Korea, South Africa and The Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland. In addition, our research has been presented at numerous international conferences including the International Catalysis Congress (ICC-2016), British Zeolite Association (2015, 2016), EuChems (2016), NAMS (2016), Gordon Research Conferences June 2016 and multiple Faraday discussions. Broader outreach activities include a catalytic science exhibition at the Harwell campus open day (2015) and exhibits at the Royal Society Summer Exhibition (2014, 2017) Outputs The Hub has been highly productive scientifically. Its four years of operation Hub science across the Catalysis Design, Environmental Catalysis, Catalysis for Energy, Chemical Transformations and Biocatalysis themes has led to one hundred and seventy-two research outputs (which is anticipated to double by the end of the current grants) across heterogeneous, homogeneous biocatalysis and engineering, including high impact papers in Science, Nature, Nature Chemistry, ACS Catalysis, Chem. Sci., Chem. Mater., Angewandte Chemie, JACS and Chemical Reviews. The Hub has also, as noted led a special issue of PCCP on neutron scattering and catalysis and a book (Modern developments in Catalysis, Imperial College Press) largely written by early career Hub scientists. Community Development The Hub has placed considerable emphasis on the development of a strong and active network for catalytic science in the UK and has contributed to the development of the field by promoting new collaborations and techniques. Much of this development has been achieved by its conferences and workshops and notable aspects include the following: • Fostering of new collaborations from community interaction - e.g. the new project involving Kamer and Aldridge referred to above; and the developing collaboration between O'Malley (Hub ECR, Cardiff) and Speybroeck (Ghent and presenter at Catalysis Hub conference, 2016), Thomspon (QUB) and Beale (RCaH, UCL) on partial oxidation of methane. • Support for ECRs; where our regular conference series has allowed interaction and liaison, especially for those new to the field or to the UK; and where our funding streams have assisted some ECRs in developing their programs. ECRs employed on Hub projects have been particularly successful with several moving in the last two years to permanent academic and industrial appointments. Currently ten Hub RAs have new academic positions and seven have industrial positions. • Strengthening the technical base of UK catalysis; by introducing groups to new methods and approaches, especially those based on central facilities, but also including EPR and electron microscopy, which has been particularly productive through the provision of the BAG with Diamond which is managed through the Hub. Added Value The Hub has provided substantial added value and has effectively exploited its flexibility and autonomy. The achievements summarised above have been crucially dependent on the Hub structure, but the following also deserve particular note: • Leverage of additional funding - Alignment of Case Awards and iCASE Awards (four JM at UCL, Oxford and Southampton, two Glasgow with Johnson Matthey and ISIS), ten additional PhD working with Hub projects, seventeen MSc/ BSc Projects; 5.5 years additional PDRA provided by CIs plus the Institutional contribution of Co-I time (approximately £0.75M). • Flexibility in continuation of strategic projects; for example, the in situ healing of composites (Wass, Bristol), which has had major impact and has attracted widespread attention including media. • Support of high risk blue sky research; of which the project on the control and optimisation of nano-particle separation in catalytic system proposed by a Hub ECR, Simon Beaumont is a good example, with exciting novel results leading to publication and new bids for funding. • Rapid adoption of new techniques and ability to steer and modify projects; as in the work of Beale on Molybdenum based zeolite catalysts which effectively incorporated laser based imaging techniques to understand deactivation processes. • Concerted use of computation with facilities based experiment facilitated by the location of a small modelling team within the RCaH, has had major impact as in our recent study of acetylene hydrochlorination which used modelling and XAS in a concerted manner. • Cross fertilisation between different areas and approaches as in the recent on-going study of protein nano-particle interactions in promoting catalytic processes. A large number of these studies have involved engineers and scientists working together in catalysis and have interacted with the Hub activities on the Harwell site, thereby providing unprecedented access to research facilitates on site with which to support and develop the links with the central facilities, predominantly Diamond and ISIS, but increasingly CLF as with the work of Beale referred to above. This feature will continue to be a key aspect of the new phase of the Hub and will play a critical role, for example in understanding the processes occurring in the water phase, where work within phase 1 has demonstrated the ability of neutrons to probe liquid phase reactions in-situ obtaining time-resolved structural measurements within the pores of a catalyst.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Chemicals
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Chair Royal Society Policy Briefing
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Description EPSRC
Amount £2,149,255 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R026939/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2018 
End 11/2023
Description Marie Curie Individual Fellowship Horizon 2020
Amount € 183,455 (EUR)
Funding ID 657755 
Organisation Marie-Sklodowska University 
Sector Academic/University
Country Poland
Start 01/2015 
End 09/2017
Title Calculated structures for "The Adsorption of Cu on the CeO2(110) surface" 
Description There is currently a strong drive in hetereogeneous catalysis to replace precious metals with low Earth abundance with more sustainable materials. Cu/CeO2 is a promising new material in the area of NOX reduction and as such the interaction of the Cu component with the oxide support is of fundamental instance. In the publication related to this work we use a combination of experimental XANES and EXAFS alongside DFT calculations to understand the fundamental bonding between Cu atoms and the CeO2(110) surface. In this data set the structures reported are contained as co-ordinate files in the common crystallography data base .cif format. The structures are logically organised into folders following the structure types discussed in the paper. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Title Mechanism of the Catalytic Carboxylation of Alkylboronates with CO2 using Ni-NHC complexes: A DFT Study (dataset) 
Description Computational data and metadata underpinning publication in scientific journal 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Title Multifunctional supported bimetallic catalysts for a cascade reaction with hydrogen auto transfer: synthesis of 4-phenylbutan-2-ones from 4-methoxybenzyl alcohols 
Description We report the one-pot tandem synthesis of 4-(4-methoxyphenyl)butan-2-one directly from 4-methoxybenzyl alcohol and acetone using a multifunctional supported AuPd nanoalloy catalyst. This one-pot synthesis involves dehydrogenation, aldol condensation and hydrogenation of C=C. In this supported AuPd catalyst, the bimetallic sites catalyse the dehydrogenation and hydrogenation steps and, in combination with the support, catalyse the C-C coupling (aldol) process. This supported bimetallic catalyst is also effective in utilizing hydrogen from the dehydrogenation reaction for the hydrogenation of 4-(4-methoxyphenyl)but-3-en-2-one to 4-(4-methoxyphenyl)butane-2-one via a hydrogen auto transfer route. These multifunctional catalysts were characterised using transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. In this dataset, we provide the meta data for the data we report in the article. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Title Simultaneous Removal of NOx and Soot Particulate from Diesel Exhaust by In-situ Catalytic Generation and Utilisation of N2O 
Description Three different catalyst samples were tested for SCR (selective catalytic reduction) of NO using ammonia, both with and without carbon black, a mimic for soot, added. The data are presented as an excel file and comprise columns of the outlet concentrations of a number of gases (water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia) as analysed by FTIR at increasing reaction temperatures/times. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Title Supported Metal Nanoparticles with Tailored Catalytic Properties through Sol immobilisation: Applications for the Hydrogenation of Nitrophenols 
Description Colloidal Pd nanoparticles, prepared at different temperatures and supported on TiO2 support via sol immobilisation were studied for their performance in the catalytic hydrogenation of nitrophenols. The physicochemical properties of the catalysts were characterised in depth using a range of techniques, including UV-vis spectroscopy, TEM, IR and XAFS. The dataset contains TEM micrographs, as well as Origin and Athena (XAFS) files relating to the catalyst characterisation. The catalytic performance data for the aforementioned hydrogenation reaction, including conversion profiles and first order kinetics, is also documented. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Description Johnson Matthey PLC 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Department Johnson Matthey Catalysts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Johnson Matthey has supplied us with samples and precusrosrs for critical projects including real-life diesel soot samples
Collaborator Contribution Scientific exxcellence in soot removal
Impact Engineering, Chemistry, CAtalaysis Simultaneous removal of NOx and soot particulate from diesel exhaust by in situ catalytic generation and utilisation of N2O By: Davies, Catherine; Thompson, Kate; Cooper, Anna; et al. APPLIED CATALYSIS B-ENVIRONMENTAL
Start Year 2013
Description Participation in an activity, workshop or similar - Zoom For improvement: Summer Science Exhibition Royal Soc 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Catalysis is everywhere - it makes chemical reactions more efficient and faster, so we can produce more products that we need for a cheaper price. The fuel in your car has been made from crude oil, using a series of catalytic reactions to allow the fuel to flow and burn correctly, delivering energy to your car. The gases produced are processed in the car's catalytic converter which uses catalysis to transform polluting carbon and nitrogen oxides that are the result of burning the fuel into environmentally benign compounds. Over 80% of the nitrogen in the proteins in your body has been derived from fertilizers produced using catalysis.

We are working in the 'Green Chemistry' research field, working to realise a sustainable future for the world. We want to understand catalysis and the materials we use to produce everyday goods and energy - and to produce fuels and other chemicals using renewable resources from plant material. We want to move to a more sustainable economy where the things we use and the energy we need is produced in a renewable way.

Because catalysis is a molecule by molecule process, we need to understand how it works and study materials at the level of individual atoms using very powerful 'electron microscopes'. We also use very high energy light to look at catalysts at this scale while they are working, to understand and improve catalyst materials. We are recreating industrial conditions in the lab and are working out what makes a good or bad catalyst. We have discovered that the most promising catalysts are solids containing molecules called nanoparticles.

Our research is revealing more about catalysis and how it can help us move towards a more sustainable future
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description The Gold Rush : Summer Science Exhibition Royal Soc 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Research on gold catalysis was exhibited
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014