COMPACT - Continuous Microsystem Production of Catalysts Technology

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

Abstract

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.

Publications

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