COMPACT - Continuous Microsystem Production of Catalysts Technology

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology


Currently, there is outstanding world-leading nano-material science being developed in Europe and especially the UK. The growing understanding of the physical and chemical interactions at the nanoscale is constantly revealing novel materials with a wide range of applications from catalysis, drug delivery, sensors, etc. However, the full realisation of these materials and their potential impact is hindered by the lack of a manufacturing technology capable of their production in a continuous and reproducible manner in large scale. This Fellowship project, aligned with the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future theme, will deliver a transformative technology for the large production of the next generation of nano-structured materials and catalysts. Its impact will allow the fast and effective transfer of knowledge from lab research to industrial scale which is essential to enhance global life standards while providing competitive advantages to the UK.

Planned Impact

This proposal has been designed with impact at the core, focused on a transformational approach to manufacturing of catalysts and structured materials. It is expect to benefit the UK and international academic community, industry and manufacturing sectors. It will also bring a wide-range of societal benefits including environmental sustainability, economy and education. The Case for Support contains a detailed academic impact plan. The roadmap to promote and ensure these impacts is described in the Pathways to Impact. This section identifies the main beneficiaries beyond me as an EPSRC Early Career Fellow, and the scientific community:

Lead users: The development of the proposed micro-scale manufacturing technology capable of producing metal particles with the desired shape and size in a continuous, scalable and reproducible manner will transform the range of materials and catalysts available at a commercial scale. Its implementation will directly benefit materials and catalysts manufacturing companies (e.g. Johnson Matthey, Oxford Catalysts, Evonik, etc.) providing competitive advantages especially in terms of product quality and customisation. It will also directly impact the competitiveness of technology suppliers specialised in micro-scale systems by the adoption of the innovative engineering strategies developed in the project.
Additionally, the manufacturing capabilities gained from this project will directly benefit the chemical-reliant industry (chemical; e.g. BP, Dow Chemicals, Unilever and pharmaceutical; e.g. GSK, Novartis, Pfizer) where more than 95% of their processes are carried out in the presence of a catalyst. The fast transfer of cutting edge research advances into industry will undoubtedly have a great impact in the UK and global economy in the medium and long-term, supporting an industry which counts for 21% of the UK GDP and supports over 6 million jobs.

End users: The implementation of more active and more selective catalysts and the industrial adaptation of cutting-edge discoveries in nano-science will enable the technical viability of more environmentally friendly processes while presenting attractive economic benefits associated to the decrease of the capital investment on industrial processes (smaller reactors and separation units) and operation costs (low energy consumption and waste production) enhancing the competitiveness of UK chemistry-using sector in the global market.
This progress will consequently have a wide range of benefits for end users in areas of water treatment, energy, food industry, healthcare, plastic production, etc. These new sustainable technologies will have societal benefits such as the reduction of emissions of pollutants, sustainable social development, better use of resources, reduced environmental impact, etc., leading to an enhanced quality of life and welfare.

Education: This project will have a direct impact in the training and formation of all PhD students in my research group who will benefit from the expertise and capabilities gained during the project. Indirectly, it will also benefit all PhD students associated with the Centre of Doctoral Training in the Centre of Sustainable Chemical Technologies at Bath as well as other postgraduate students in the Department.
Additionally, aspects of this cutting-edge research will be implemented in the undergraduate teaching modules providing students with knowledge beyond traditional engineering and understanding of its impact in day-to-day applications.
The university outreach events and public engagement activities will further expand the impact of this research to school students and the public in general. Science promotion, awakening scientific vocations and nurturing of current and future scientists and engineers are amongst the expected benefits via education.


10 25 50

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/L020432/1 31/10/2014 30/09/2015 £955,640
EP/L020432/2 Transfer EP/L020432/1 01/10/2015 31/12/2020 £840,509
Description We have developed a new technology for the continuous manufacturing of metal nanoparticles with a high level of size control in the absence of organic capping ligands. The work has recently expanded to multi-metal systems and additional configurations such as hollow systems.
Exploitation Route It is still very early for this technology to be taken forward at a higher scale but the grant is still active and we are currently investigating different options
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare

Description KACST - Cambridge collaboration
Amount £346,053 (GBP)
Organisation King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology 
Sector Public
Country Saudi Arabia
Start 09/2016 
End 04/2018
Description Programme Grant
Amount £4,837,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P02081X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 06/2022
Description Reduction of CO2 emissions in the UK chemical industry
Amount £1,573,500 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P004709/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2020
Description Christos Markides 
Organisation Imperial College London
Department Department of Chemical Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The outcomes of this project enable the start of a collaboration for the production of nanofluids and its further funding by EPSRC
Collaborator Contribution Exploration and simulation of nanofluids to reduce the CO2 emissions in the UK chemical industry
Impact Multi-disciplinary and multi-site collaboration
Start Year 2016
Description Jeremy Baumberg 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Cavendish Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project is enabling a collaboration to provide metal nanoparticles with tuneable sizes for the development of responsive functional polymers
Collaborator Contribution They are opening up new applications for these nanoparticles
Impact This is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between physics and engineering.
Start Year 2017
Description Johnson Matthey 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Department Johnson Matthey Catalysts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are providing a new technology ofr the manufacturing of taylor catalysts with control on nanoparticle size and dispersity.
Collaborator Contribution Advice Industrial expertise Steering direction of research
Impact JM has strongly supported our latest proposal for the renewal of the NanoCDT in Cambridge
Start Year 2018
Description Karina Mathisen 
Organisation Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Department Department of Chemistry
Country Norway 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of materials as well as characterisation and catalytic tests
Collaborator Contribution Deep understanding of the relationship between metal components in catalysts via characterisation using XAS
Impact Multi-disciplinary collaboration
Start Year 2016
Description Michael DeVolder 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Institute for Manufacturing
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Share of characterisation equipment and skills Knowledge on material synthesis, specially nanostructured ceramic materials
Collaborator Contribution Share of characterisation equipment and skills Knowledge on battery testing
Impact Mulstidisciplinary collaboration including manufacturing, chemistry and chemical engineering
Start Year 2017
Description Richard Friend's group 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Cavendish Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are exploring the application of the technology developed in this project for the production of perovskite materials nanocrystals
Collaborator Contribution Application of perovskite nanocrystals in solar cells and LEDs
Impact Multi-disciplinary project between the optoelectronic group and chemical engineering
Start Year 2017
Description Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I organised a workshop entitled "Manufacturing of materials in flow" at the University of Cambridge (UK) on the 22nd-24th September 2019.

The main aim was to showcase the activities of the group directly related to this Fellowship project to leading research groups in the field as well as industry. The workshop was organised as a networking activity to discuss different approaches, share research outputs and explore future avenues. The discussion was divided into 4 themes:
i. Manufacturing of materials in flow
ii. Understanding mechanism of formation of nanoparticles
iii. Novel flow device designs
iv. In-situ characterisation and automatization (including machine learning)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019