Designed Synthesis of Zeolites for Environmental and Biorenewables Catalysis

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Chemistry


Heterogeneous catalysis plays a major role in the synthesis of commodity and fine chemicals, fuels and environmental protection for UK industry and aluminosilicate zeolites are the catalysts of choice for many important reactions in oil refining and petrochemical and automobile emission control. Uniquely among industrial solid catalysts, their performance is directly related to their bulk crystal structure, via important details of their pore structure and the chemical structure of their active sites, but synthesis of new materials has by and large relied on trial-and-error approaches. Our research hypothesis is that enough is now known about the synthesis of zeolites and their action as catalysts to plan and execute the preparation of novel active heterogeneous catalysts for selected expanding catalytic technologies.

This ambitious research program spans structural design, hydrothermal synthesis and catalytic performance testing of zeolite catalysts. It will be facilitated by crystallography, atomistic modelling and in situ spectroscopic methods to predict and elucidate details of the mechanisms of crystallisation and of catalysis over targeted zeolites. The program will build on our recent advances in the design of hypothetical zeolite structures and the targeted preparation of novel zeolites, and in the in situ monitoring by solid state NMR, Raman and X-ray spectroscopies of zeolite preparation and of their catalytic reactions. These reactions are important for hydrocarbon generation from oxygenates and for the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) of unwanted nitrogen oxides with ammonia.

The designed synthesis of new zeolites will target hypothetical frameworks that, under computational screening, show promise for SCR or for oxygenates-to-hydrocarbons. Initial studies will develop 'retrosynthetic', modelling-led, approaches to templating these structures, while extended studies will aim to extend these to devise upscalable, commercially viable approaches.

The work will be performed in close collaboration with the UK's leading commercial catalyst company and will not only prepare novel catalysts with potential advantages of performance and patentability over current materials, but will also develop a fully-connected methodology for the synthesis of new catalysts embedded in a computational and in situ experimental framework for the study of the relationship between structure and catalytic function.


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