New catalysis for the utilisation of recalcitrant polysaccharides

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Chemistry


This proposal aims to develop a new approach to catalyst and process design to promote a sustainable chemical industry. Catalysis underpins almost all of the key processes required for the well-being of society. Without effective catalysts, life as we currently know it would not be possible. Designing new and improved catalysts is a key requirement to sustain our quality of life and enrich it further. Chemo-catalysis, especially using heterogeneous catalysts, has dominated the industrial production of commodity chemicals for decades. Most chemo-catalysed processes do not provide the unique atom efficiency offered by enzymes, but they are used extensively due to their perceived stability and ease of handling in the existing chemical infrastructure. Given the modern and justifiable concern for the environment, especially the importance of green chemical processes, atom efficiency is now a major concern. In biology, enzymes are highly effective catalysts, especially with respect to atom efficiency and the high catalytic rates they exhibit when compared with non-catalysed reactions.1 Biocatalysis is now beginning to play a major role in the development of new, more efficient industrial processes. It is therefore time to combine the advantages of chemo-catalysis and biological catalysis to create cascade reactions that can permit access to feedstocks for chemical synthesis other than petroleum.

We will combine chemo- and enzymatic catalysis to open up a wholly novel approach to utilise "recalcitrant" polysaccharides, such as chitin and cellulose, as sources of chemical building blocks for sustainable chemical synthesis using benign reaction conditions. The novelty and adventure of this proposal lies in the approach that is needed to ensure the two very different types of catalyst can work effectively in tandem by tuning their design to adapt to the reaction conditions required.


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