EPSRC Impact Acceleration Fellowships at RCaH

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Four multidisciplinary research groups have been funded by an open EPSRC call to undertake "cutting-edge" research, and to facilitate this the groups have been housed in the purpose built Research Complex on the Harwell Science and Technology site, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), so that the groups have ready access to the world-leading synchrotron, neutron and laser facilities at RAL.

The four groups comprise:
I. The UK Catalysis Hub: The Hub has four main areas of research: catalysis and energy, catalysis in protection of the environment, chemical transformations and catalysis by design. The physical base at Harwell coordinates Hub activities as well as hosting the design theme projects and providing residence to over 20 full time researchers. The Hub network brings together a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling catalytic challenges incorporating world-leading academics in their respective areas.
II. The Structural evolution across multiple time and length scales MXIF@RCaH Group: The MXIF@RCaH team has a strong culture of knowledge exchange across disciplines, identifying and undertaking challenging 'step-jump' imaging experiments to study "Structural evolution across multiple time and length scales".
III. The Dynamic Structural Science Consortium (DySS): This consortium makes full use of the Diamond synchrotron, the ISIS neutron and the Central Laser facilities to develop techniques for following chemical and biological processes, in the solid-state and in solution, over timescales of picoseconds to minutes.
IV. The Phase Modulation Technology for X-ray Imaging Group: This team from UCL and Sheffield University is developing new optics for X-ray imaging and has pioneered a new "single-shot" X-ray method.

These four groups have been working successfully at the RCaH since 2011, and at the recent mid-term review have been encouraged to achieve "even greater impact by increasing the interaction between the four groups" and "developing greater industrial involvement in order to make the project more sustainable and guarantee the potential for high impact research and development".

Through the Impact Acceleration funding that the four groups are now jointly applying for we wish to achieve these targets by appointing 8 Impact Acceleration Fellows (4 Academic and 4 Industrial) for periods of up to six months, who will each span the research fields of two or more of the RCaH groups and/or will have strong industrial links. The Fellows, who will be international experts in their own areas, will be tasked with fostering the academic and industrial links between the four groups at the RCaH and the wider international academic and industrial communities.

Secondly, we wish to run 8 Workshops during the next two years to further facilitate the interactions between the four groups, between the groups and the wider academic and industrial communities, and to focus on the development of early career researchers working in the science areas of the groups at the RCaH. The workshops will alternate between scientific dissemination format, translation to Industry format, and Early Career Idea Factories. We will invite internationally leading academic and industrialists for the scientific dissemination format and translation to industry format workshops, and encourage the early career researchers already working at the RCaH to develop their own idea factory workshops.

Through these activities we will accelerate the impact of the high quality science being undertaken by the four EPSRC-sponsored groups at the RCaH.

Publications

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Bradley RS (2017) 3D X-Ray Nanotomography of Cells Grown on Electrospun Scaffolds. in Macromolecular bioscience

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Vamvakeros A (2015) Real time chemical imaging of a working catalytic membrane reactor during oxidative coupling of methane. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

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Vamvakeros A (2016) Interlaced X-ray diffraction computed tomography. in Journal of applied crystallography

 
Description The Impact Acceleration award has had 3 fellowships, 2 early career workshops and an industry academia day. the fellowships include Dr Simon Jacques who was working with Manchester and MXIF on 3D Xray tomography in catalytic membrane systems , Robert Bradley (Phase contrast imaging and MXIF) and Rachel O'malley from Johnson Matthey who has been working on Phase contrast imaging of catalysis systems. I include a report on the completed collaboration with Simon Jacques

RCAH Impact Fellows Report
Dr Simon Jacques, Manchester

The RCaH Advanced Impact Position is an EPSRC scheme that encourages collaborative research between groups based at the Research Complex Harwell. I have been fortunate enough to have been awarded one of these fellowships. My project is a collaboration principally with Manchester X-ray Imaging Facility and the UK catalysis hub with the aim of developing methods to image the changing chemistry within working catalytic membrane reactors. These are a new breed of catalytic reactors and we are using these for the efficient and clean conversion of methane to industrially useful feedstock materials such as ethylene. Below is summary of the project and the progress made to date.
The imperative for efficient technologies to process methane: The continuous reduction of gas flaring and the exploitation of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has led to a dramatic increase in the availability of methane. Natural gas, whose main component is methane, is considered to be an abundant hydrocarbon source compared to crude oil and consequently there is much interest in producing higher value bulk chemicals from it. Environmentally-friendly and cost-effective processing technologies for direct conversion of methane to light olefins (e.g. ethylene) as an alternative to the highly energy-intensive cracking of crude oil are needed. The oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) can potentially provide an economically viable route for ethylene production. The application of catalytic membrane reactors (CMR) employing oxygen transport membranes can lead to a decrease of the cost of the overall process.

The reactor: Figure 1, left, shows the principle of operation of such a reactor. The membrane facilitates the transport of oxygen ions from surrounding air atmosphere to feed the catalytic bed with oxygen. Methane is fed into the base of the reactor and is oxidatively coupled by virtue of an OCM catalyst to produce ethylene product. This process is highly advantageous in that it does not need a source of pure oxygen per se or require separation of product from contaminating gasses such as nitrogen.
Whilst this technology is very promising, there is little known about the workings of membrane and catalyst candidate materials in combination.

Chemical Imaging: We have been developing a number of chemical imaging methods including X-ray diffraction computing tomography (XRD-CT) which we have used to image working CMR under operando conditions. XRD-CT is extremely powerful as it enables one to obtain images from bulk objects, where the composing pixels contain reconstructed diffraction patterns that themselves contain highly insightful physico-chemical information. Figure 2 below shows XRD-CT derived phase maps at a fixed height within a CMR under different applied conditions. The maps show that the position of the BCFZ membrane (BaCo0.4Fe0.4Zr0.2O3-d), and the catalyst distribution within the catalyst particles within the hollow of the membrane, including the catalyst support phases (cristobalite, tridymite) and catalyst phases (Na2WO4 & Mn2O3) as a function of operating temperature. In this experiment we also see the evolution of BaWO4 which is resulting from the interaction of the catalyst with the membrane. The formation of this phase is highly likely to be detrimental to the long term operation of the CMR. This phase would likely be unobservable by conventional single point measurements.


Phase maps for BCFZ, cristobalite and tridymite (SiO2 polymorphs), Na2WO4, Mn2O3, Ba2WO4 and an amorphous phase as determined from the XRD-CT data. These maps have been obtained from the integrated intensities of the respective phases.

Current state of project: We are using XRD-CT and supporting measurements to look at a number of membrane catalyst combinations under intended industrial operating conditions. We have recently published a short paper reporting some initial findings and also a methods based paper [2] detailing some developed methods. We are currently preparing full papers on the membrane/catalyst combinations studied to date and also a second methods paper.

Key findings from MXIF- RObinsin
group edge illumination is a promising X-ray phase-contrast imaging technique.

Phase retrieval usually requires the acquisition and processing of two images.

A single-image retrieval algorithm for edge illumination is proposed.

This greatly simplifies image acquisition and reduces data collection time.
Exploitation Route Simon Jacques project on continuous reduction of gas flaring and the exploitation of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has led to a dramatic increase in the availability of methane. Natural gas, whose main component is methane, is considered to be an abundant hydrocarbon source compared to crude oil and consequently there is much interest in producing higher value bulk chemicals from it. Environmentally-friendly and cost-effective processing technologies for direct conversion of methane to light olefins (e.g. ethylene) as an alternative to the highly energy-intensive cracking of crude oil are needed. this of large impact to energy and ev=nironmental research ad the technique develpment arising from this project is widely applicable
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Transport

 
Description : The continuous reduction of gas flaring and the exploitation of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has led to a dramatic increase in the availability of methane. Natural gas, whose main component is methane, is considered to be an abundant hydrocarbon source compared to crude oil and consequently there is much interest in producing higher value bulk chemicals from it. Environmentally-friendly and cost-effective processing technologies for direct conversion of methane to light olefins (e.g. ethylene) as an alternative to the highly energy-intensive cracking of crude oil are needed. The oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) can potentially provide an economically viable route for ethylene production. The application of catalytic membrane reactors (CMR) employing oxygen transport membranes can lead to a decrease of the cost of the overall process. 1. Collaborative experiments we're staged and succeeded. 2. One paper came out already and another is in the works 3. A collaborative student project was set up with the industrial partner, which is ongoing
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare
Impact Types Economic

 
Title XAFS DRIFTS methods 
Description WE have developed a flow system, gas handling and use of a DRIFS spectrometer in combination with XAFS ( at both diamond light source and ESRF) to study insitu and operando catalysis reactions looking at the reaction and structure of the catalysis to increase mechanistic and fundamental understanding of catalytic processes the expertise and equipment through BLock access to B18 on diamond light-source is now available as a resource for the community 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact A number of publications have arisen from this research tool, additional funding for development of a flow Cell as been secured as an INDUSTRIAL CASE award 
 
Description Collaboration with ISIS neutron and muon source and Johnson Matthe and development of a special edition of PCCP 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution In association with ISIS the Hub held a workshop on, "Neutron Techniques in Catalysis" in Nov 2014. There were a mix of delegates from industry and academia, with over fifty attendees. This helped to provide training and knowledge transfer to catalytic community who may previously not have used neutrons leading to a range of new users including Johnson Matthey, Academics from Southampton university and UCL. Following this workshop scientists from ISIS, The Catalysis Hub and Johnson Matthey proposed and led a special issue of PCCP edition, "Neutron scattering in catalysis and energy materials"
Collaborator Contribution talks and co organsiation of papers, "Neutron Techniques in Catalysis" in Nov 2014 knowledge and interaction and the contribution of papers and newtork expertise for special issue of PCCP edition, "Neutron scattering in catalysis and energy materials"
Impact special edition of PCCP Neutron scattering in catalysis and energy materials" and increasing use of ISIS beamtime for catalysis research and recognition of the importance of neutron techniques for Johnson matthey (industrial) especially in the region of automotive catalysis and Selective catalytic reduction
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with ISIS neutron and muon source and Johnson Matthe and development of a special edition of PCCP 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC)
Department ISIS Neutron and Muon Source
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution In association with ISIS the Hub held a workshop on, "Neutron Techniques in Catalysis" in Nov 2014. There were a mix of delegates from industry and academia, with over fifty attendees. This helped to provide training and knowledge transfer to catalytic community who may previously not have used neutrons leading to a range of new users including Johnson Matthey, Academics from Southampton university and UCL. Following this workshop scientists from ISIS, The Catalysis Hub and Johnson Matthey proposed and led a special issue of PCCP edition, "Neutron scattering in catalysis and energy materials"
Collaborator Contribution talks and co organsiation of papers, "Neutron Techniques in Catalysis" in Nov 2014 knowledge and interaction and the contribution of papers and newtork expertise for special issue of PCCP edition, "Neutron scattering in catalysis and energy materials"
Impact special edition of PCCP Neutron scattering in catalysis and energy materials" and increasing use of ISIS beamtime for catalysis research and recognition of the importance of neutron techniques for Johnson matthey (industrial) especially in the region of automotive catalysis and Selective catalytic reduction
Start Year 2015
 
Description 2 talksand 2 posters at The science of Co2 capture and conversion , Varaderro Cuba 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Emma gibson (catalysis Hub), Scott rogers,Peter Wells (catalysis at Harwell), Alexander O'mallet and Pierre Senecal (related to impact project) gave talsk at the Science of CO2 conference in Cuba and spoke to the British ambassador in Cub as well as interacting with the international community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Leading a Faraday Discussion on Catalysis organised by the RSC April 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Designing New Heterogeneous Catalysts: Faraday Discussion
4 - 6 April 2016, London, United Kingdom
Catalysis is a core area of contemporary science posing major fundamental and conceptual challenges, while being at the heart of the chemical industry. It is a major theme in chemical sciences and engineering that underlies much of the key research and teaching in these subjects.
At this discussion, we will bring the catalysis community together to discuss the theme of designing new heterogeneous catalysts. Catalysis plays a crucial part in the production of 80% of all manufactured goods. We will explore the modern methods used to design new catalysts and how the approaches can bridge across the disciplines of physical sciences and chemical engineering
Themes
Catalyst design from theory to practice
In this session, we will explore how modern theoretical methods are aiding the design of new heterogeneous catalysts. This will invariably provide interplay between mechanism and the active site
Designing new catalysts: synthesis of new active structures
In this session, we will discuss ways in which new nanoparticulate structures can play a role in designing new active centres. How they can be prepared and their catalytic properties explored
Bridging model and real catalysts
We will discuss how modern methods in surface science and microscopy can aid the design of new catalysts. Recent advances in methodologies are enabling model surface science studies and real catalysts come closer together. This session will explore the nature of active catalyst sites
Application of novel catalysts
In this session we aim to show how new catalyst designs can find important applications that address key challenges facing society at this time, such as energy and water purification
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.rsc.org/events/detail/16840/designing-new-heterogeneous-catalysts-faraday-discussion
 
Description UK Catalysis Hub Conferences 
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 The Catalysis Hub runs two conferences per year for members of the Hub and for the wider catalysis community. These conferences showcase catalysis research focusing on the work of the Hub. Speakers include researchers from the Catalysis Hub and internationally renowned speakers and industrialists who cover a range of topics including biocatalysis, homogeneuos and heterogeneous catalysis, reaction engineering and industrial catalysis. In addition, poster sessions highlights the projects across the Hub and provide a lively forum for discussion and dissemination of catalytic science.
One aim of the UK Catalysis Hub is to develop the next generation of researchers. To facilitate this aim, the UK Catalysis Hub arranges an annual summer conference focusing on providing a forum for the research associates to present their work and interact. Attendance at the conferences is consistently over 100 people. Dinner speakers have included EPSRC, international academics and industrialists
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description Working at the Bio-Chemo Interface 
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 The UK Catalysis Hub organised an event jointly sponsored by the EPSRC Catalysis Hub and BBSRC BIOCATNET to stimulate and encourage collaborations at the interface of hetero-/homogeneous catalysis and biocatalysts. This event was attended by over eighty people from both traditional chemo catalysis and the biocatalysts community. Talks covered a wide range of topics including Hydrogen Activation, Biorefining, Biofuels, Synthesis, Modelling artificial enzymes, Upstream and Downstream Processing and Miniaturisation. The event was attended by 60 sciences from across both the Bio and Chemical catalysis community and from Industry and academia. Spirited discussions at the networking opportunities lead to a number of the proposals submitted to the bio transformations theme
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016