Hub 'Science' 3: Catalysis for the Circular Economy and Sustainable Manufacturing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
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 totalled over £50B annually 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, to achieve which the UK Catalysis Hub was established in 2013. The Hub has succeeded over the last four years in bringing together over 40 university groups for innovative and collaborative research programmes in this key area of contemporary science. The success of the Hub can be attributed to its inclusive and open ethos which has resulted in many groups joining its network since its foundation in 2013; to its strong emphasis on collaboration; and to its physical hub on the Harwell campus in close proximity to the Diamond synchrotron, ISIS neutron source and Central Laser Facility, whose successful exploitation for catalytic science has been a major feature of the recent science of the Hub.
The next phase of the Catalysis Hub will build on this success and, while retaining the key features and structure of the current hub, will extend its programmes both nationally and internationally. The future hub structure will comprise a core programme which will coordinate the scientific themes of the Hub, which in the initial stages of the next phase will comprise:

- Optimising, predicting and designing new catalysts
- Catalysis at the water-energy nexus
- Catalysis for the circular economy and sustainable manufacturing
- Biocatalysis and bio-transformations.

The present project concerns the third of these themes whose overall aim is to develop fundamental catalysis with circular and sustainable approaches at their core. This will be of current and future importance to the chemical and chemistry-using industries. The project will comprise he following areas supported by specific workpackages:

- New cooperative catalysts for C-C bond forming reactions from CO2;
- Activation of C-O bonds for valorisation of bio-derived feedstocks;
- Using and understanding sustainable catalytic oxidation processes in flow;
- Earth-abundant metals in resource efficient catalysis;
- Keeping platform molecules in play: catalytic chemical recycling of polymers;
- New sustainable polymer architectures for high performance plastics;
- Optimising bio-based platform molecules: establishing diformyl furan as a bio-based platform for polymers.

The project will interact strongly with the other hub science projects. The Hub structure is intrinsically multidisciplinary including extensive input from engineering as well as science disciplines and with strong interaction and cross-fertilisation between the different themes. The thematic structure will allow the Hub to cover the major areas of current catalytic science.

Planned Impact

Phase 2 of the UK Catalysis Hub will have wide ranging benefits and impact on the academic community and on industrial and manufacturing sectors in the UK; it will also have broader economic, environmental and social impact. The chemical sector is a major component of UK industry, and includes global players such as GSK, Astra Zeneca, Pfizer, Johnson Matthey, BP and Unilever. Catalysis is at the heart of these industries and the underpinning fundamental science developed by the UK Cataysis Hub will be of key importance in the development of future technologies.

The impact on the academic community will be broad. The programme will promote further collaborations between leading groups in catalytic science, but will also have impact on other disciplines including biosciences, materials, medicine and computational science. By contributing to facilities development, the project will also benefit the broader user community.

Societal impact will follow from advances enabled by the research in sustainable manufacturing, leading to greener and cleaner processes and products with reduced environmental impact. Contributions will also be made to the provision of sustainable energy and reductions in energy demands of manufacturing sectors. Additional societal impact will follow from the role of the fundamental research undertaken by UK Catalysis Hub in developing the circular economy and enabling recycle and reuse of waste streams.

The UK economy will benefit from the role of the Hub in assisting innovation in catalysis manufacture. The large and successful chemical sector, including over 3200 companies and a dynamic SME component, faces intense international competition. The collaborations and interactions both within the Hub and between the Hub and Industry will promote economic impact, which will extend beyond the chemical sector to industries that rely on advances in materials and processes, including automotive, aerospace and electronics sectors. All letters of support across science 1,2, and 3 and the core themes have been attached to the core proposal

Knowledge exchange will be vigorously promoted by the programme through greater integration between the participating research groups and their extensive networks of collaborations and with scientists and facilities on the Harwell campus. This exchange will lead to scientific advances not only in the development of state-of-the-art equipment but also in sustainable chemical processes.

The impact on recruitment will be substantial by the provision of trained research workers whose skills will be necessary for R&D programmes required for market innovation to occur.

The management and dissemination plans are designed to maximise impact. The Management Group of the Hub will monitor and together with the IAP and EAB will advise on impact, while the conferences and workshops will be aimed at the key beneficiaries.

The collaborating team has wide ranging experience in the dissemination of their science and the promotion of its impact to a wide range of stakeholders including the general public, schools, business and government. We will undertake industrial stakeholder engagement at the Hub as well as visiting the industrial sites. A strong outreach programme is planned which will develop the Hub researchers as well provide In order to inform the community in its broadest sense the importance and impact of catalysis.


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Bin Jumah A (2019) Catalyzing the Hydrocracking of Low Density Polyethylene in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research

Description Findings associated with this award will help redefine industry supply chains. A traditional linear approach to production and consumption (take, make, dispose) unsustainable. New circular approaches (make, use, return) are growing in influence and importance with global economic growth and urbanization Within industry, closed-loop, circular value chains, and sustainable manufacturing are increasingly recognised as vital to future innovation and growth

KEyfindinggs to date lead toward making chemical synthesis more sustainable, developing different bio-based alternative petrochemical products that will have applications in polymer and pharmaceutical industries. Studies into recycling polymers applicable to a wide range of polymers, including: polyesters prepared using ROCOP, copolymers (of carbonates or esters) sourced from renewable resources, polymers with complex architectures (e.g. block copolymers, thermoplastic elastomers), and keeping platform molecules in play.
Exploitation Route This research is being disseminated to the UK Catalysis community (industrial and academics) and has been taken forward in KTP projects
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport

Description This theme of the UK Catalysis Hub addresses the application of catalysis in developing circular and sustainable molecules, materials and processes across the chemicals and chemistry-using industries. In particular, the seven work packages outlined below and detailed in the technical annex aim to provide catalytic solutions that will (in the words of Dow Chemical's Chief Sustainability Officer) "keep the molecules in play". In order to realise the circular economy, more sustainable manufacturing processes are required and there is an imperative need to develop new catalysts and catalytic processes across a diverse range of the chemicals, materials and pharmaceutical supply chains.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Economic