International Centre-to-Centre Collaboration: New catalysts for acetylene processes enabling a sustainable future

Lead Research Organisation: CARDIFF UNIVERSITY
Department Name: Chemistry


The goal of this partnership is to create new catalysts for chemical reactions that are sustainable and help produce important chemicals and intermediates. Catalysts are essential substances that make chemical reactions happen more efficiently, and they are fundamental to many of the key processes that support our modern society. Without effective catalysts, many of the products and processes that we rely on would not be possible.

At present, the chemical industry primarily uses fossil carbon sources like natural gas, oil, and coal. However, this approach is not sustainable in the long term, and it contributes to climate change and other environmental problems. As a result, researchers are looking for new ways to make chemicals that rely on green and sustainable carbon sources. Acetylene is one such molecule that has the potential to be an essential intermediate for a sustainable chemical industry.

Acetylene chemistry was well developed over a century ago, but it was displaced as a central chemical intermediate by readily available ethene derived from oil. As a result, acetylene chemistry is currently an underexplored field. However, it is possible to produce acetylene from methane, which from biogas is a renewable source of carbon. Therefore, acetylene could become a crucial central intermediate for a new green chemical industry.

We aim to design and understand catalysts based on Au, Pt, and AuPt that will act as a new class of catalysts to produce key chemicals and intermediates from acetylene. The partnership will bring together world-leading and complementary catalysis expertise, with the Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI collaborating with the UK Catalysis Hub (Harwell), the Max Planck Institute fur Kohlenforschung (KOFO, Mulheim), the Instituto de Tecnologia Quimica (ITQ), and the Fritz-Haber-Institute of the Max Planck Society (FHI, Berlin).

A key benefit of this partnership is the additionality that it provides. By pooling expertise and resources, researchers can tackle grand challenge problems more effectively. The collaborative project brings together centres with unique and crucial expertise, such as the high-pressure facilities for acetylene catalysis at MPI KOFO, the fundamental surface science and advanced characterization techniques available at Harwell and FHI, the advanced computational methodologies of the FHI and the synthetic expertise concerning nanoparticles of ITQ. This partnership will enable UK researchers to access this expertise and cutting-edge facilities to tackle the complex challenge of making and characterizing new catalysts.

The research will focus on gaining a fundamental understanding of what controls the activity of these catalysts in specific reactions, such as acetylene hydrochlorination and acetylene hydrogenation. Supported Au and Pt catalysts display a range of morphologies and often have individual atoms/cations, clusters, and nanoparticles. In some reactions, it is the well-dispersed Au+ cations that are active, while in others, nanoparticles are active. The research will seek to gain a deeper understanding of what controls the activity in these reactions and use this knowledge to design new and improved catalysts.

To achieve these goals, we will use in situ/operando techniques and complementary capabilities available through the partnership to study these new catalysts. The team of experts assembled has worked together previously in various combinations, which will facilitate effective collaboration and communication. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to create new catalysts that will enable the sustainable production of important chemicals and intermediates, contributing to the development of a more sustainable and environmentally friendly chemical industry.


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