UK technology hub aims to develop improved catalysts

The UK is investing £12.9m to create a technology hub researching catalysts that could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and produce cleaner water.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC)-funded UK Catalysis Hub aims to develop new and improved catalysts for a variety of sectors valuable to the UK economy including chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals, food and materials, as well as emerging sectors such as industrial biotechnology.

The centre will build on work already carried out at the hub’s new home at the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH) in Oxfordshire while bringing together researchers from more than 30 universities to collaborate on projects and share expertise.

‘It’s this combination of ideas from multi-disciplinary teams and across projects that will lead to breakthroughs,’ said one of the hub’s project leaders, Prof Christopher Hardacre of Queen’s University, Belfast.

Fellow project leader Prof Graham Hutchings from Cardiff University said: ‘Catalysis is a key area of science that can tackle the big problems. We will use catalysts in non-traditional ways and in new innovative areas.’

Catalysts are substances that speed up chemical reactions and are used in many industrial processes and at some point in the production of almost all manufactured goods, including food, fertilisers, explosives, fuels, drugs, fibres and polymers.

They are also used in technologies that clean up transport and industrial emissions and improve the production efficiency of clean fuels, biofuels and clean water.

The initial £12.9m will be split between four groups studying:

  • the molecular mechanisms of catalysts (University College London);
  • energy storage and fuel production using renewable energy sources (Queen’s University Belfast);
  • the conversion of carbon dioxide and other ‘waste’ materials into usable products (Cardiff University);
  • and the creation of more sustainable production methods for chemical and polymer manufacture (Bath University).