Stabilization of metal nanoparticles by their confinement on curved supports

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


The discovery and understanding of the reactivity of metal nanoparticles and their potential applications is slowly transforming our World due to their unique chemical and physical properties. However, their implementation is mainly limited by their tendency to agglomerate and sinter into bigger and more stable particles, losing their exceptional characteristics. The aim of this project is to stabilize metal nanoparticles using morphologically engineered supports overcoming the diffusion challenges faced by conventional stabilization approaches, specially relevant in catalytic applications. The potential of this new type of metal nanostructured catalyst will be explored in areas of green chemistry, environment and energy applications.

Planned Impact

The outcomes of this project are expected to bring a series of benefits to the academic community, industry and manufacturing sectors in the UK and worldwide as well as more wide-ranging societal benefits including environmental sustainability, economy and education. The academic impact is already considered in the Case for Support. The other main beneficiaries are identified below. The pathways to promote and enhance these impacts are considered in the Pathways to Impact section.
- Economy: The chemical industry represents a key part of the UK economy counting for 21% of its GDP and supporting over 6 million jobs. Most of the chemical processes at an industrial scale are carried out in the presence of catalysts and therefore, the implementation of the outcomes of this project (stabilized nanostructured catalysts with enhanced reactivities) is expected to have a great impact in the global and UK economy in the medium and long-term. Reduced operational costs are expected from the reduced amount of active scarce metals contained in the catalysts. Their high stability is also translated in a longer life reducing the need and costs of fresh catalysts. Development of alternative chemical processes and optimization of existing ones using nanostructured catalysts with enhanced activities and selectivities will also reduce the capital costs (smaller reactors and separation units) as well as operational costs (energy consumption).
- Students: The development of my expertise during this project will be reflected in my personal knowledge and consequently in the quality of my teaching to undergraduate and postgraduate students. These students will develop awareness about cutting-edge research in areas beyond traditional engineering and understanding of their impact in daily applications. School students will also be secondary beneficiaries due to their interaction during university outreach activities. Science promotion, awakening scientific vocations and nurturing of current and future researchers are amongst the expected benefits via education. Current students will become the next leaders expanding the impact of current research into the future.
- Society: Catalysis, in general, impacts a wide range of applications from water treatment, energy, food industry, healthcare, oil-derivatives, plastic production, etc. Advances in the catalysis field, like the one detailed in this proposal, will potentially lead to improved atom efficiency, reduced energy consumption and waste production, sustainable use of scarce resources and the development of new sustainable technologies. These progresses will result in societal benefits such as the reduction of pollutants into the atmosphere and rivers/seas, sustainable development (national and internationally), better use of resources, etc, which will reduce the environmental impact of human activities leading to an enhanced quality of life and welfare.
Description The aim of this project was to develop an innovative approach for the stabilization of metal nanoparticles against agglomeration. This grant has allowed the development of a new strategy for the confinement of the particles on curved supports, providing preliminary evidences.
Exploitation Route As described in the Pathways of Impact, we have engaged with industrial partners and now working with them in the implementation of this stabilization approach for specific industrial applications.
Students from the DCT in the Centre of Sustainable Chemical Technologies at Bath have also benefited from these outcomes.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The findings have provided the foundations for a new manufacturing technology for metal nanoparticles and catalysts for their use in electronic, healthcare and catalytic applications. We are currently engaging with industry for the implementation of these findings on their current catalytic systems.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Chemicals,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description EPSRC Early Career Fellowship
Amount £956,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L020432/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 10/2019
Description SASOL 
Organisation Sasol Technology
Department SASOL Technology UK Limited
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are developing novel stable catalysts based on cobalt nanoparticles
Collaborator Contribution SASOL is co-supervising a PhD student (CASE Award) providing general information about cobalt-based catalysts and access to their experimental capabilities.
Impact Not outcomes yet.
Start Year 2013