UK Catalysis Hub at the Research Complex
Facilities at the Physical Hub
The initial Catalysis at Harwell grant and equipment funding has led to great improvements to the infrastructure and equipment base for Catalysis. EPSRC support has funded the creation of a gas handling laboratory and provided the bespoke catalysis instrumentation (EP/K005030/1) essential to establishing a leading institution in the field. The gas infrastructure work renovated a laboratory to add additional benching, fume cupboard, and gas ring-main system. The ring-main system has 8 lines for different speciality gases, with each gas having 10 individually regulated drop-off points around the laboratory. The catalysis equipment currently available at RCaH includes: (i) rapid scanning FT-IR with combined XAFS/DRIFTS capabilities (ii) a suite of autoclave reactors (iii) a multi-tubular reactor assembly for heterogeneous catalysis studies (iv) a flow reactor for homogeneous catalysis (v) a Hiden CATlab for heterogeneous catalysis studies, TPO, TPD and TPR (vi) a suite of high performance liquid and gas chromatographs and (vii) a microwave-plasma atomic emission spectrometer. The equipment base has been supplemented further by relocation of equipment from the University of Southampton to the Harwell campus, for use by the UK Catalysis Hub and the Dynamical Structural Sciences consortium. This equipment includes a combined stopped-flow UV/vis with freeze quench accessory and a micro-reactor assembly with quadrupole mass spectrometer.
In addition to the gas handling lab the Catalysis team also occupy a lab for preparative chemistry work, which has also been aided by the transfer of the necessary equipment for preparing and handling air and moisture sensitive compounds (Schlenk line, vacuum pumps etc.). Moreover, the team has also aided the core RCaH staff by assisting in setting up a furnace room for the whole facility. The catalysis team currently has office space sufficient for 20 desks and 158 m2 of laboratory space.
Working as a collective unit at RCaH has enabled the catalysis team to gain programme access to the core XAFS beamline, B18, at DLS, which provides the team with 24 shifts (8 days) of access per allocation period. This access route increases the efficiency of data acquisition by coordinating projects to reduce the dead time of experimental set-up and by allocating small amounts of time for proof of concept investigations before a full study starts. Recently, we were able to perform experiments from 7 research groups over two days, using a total of 10 different absorption edges, which is both a success for the technical performance of the beamline and for the management of the access. The work of the Catalysis Hub at DLS has been mentioned in both the Diamond news magazine (summer 2013) and Diamond Podcast (Episode 24 – Catalysis). Moreover, the base at RCaH has also enabled the catalysis group to gain programme mode access to ISIS, which provides flexible access to the many beamlines available on both target stations. Sustained access to DLS and ISIS is essential in realising the synergistic benefits of the wide ranging facilities on the RAL campus.
Strategic Role of Location within RCaH
The RCaH is proving to be an ideal location for the Catalysis Centre for three main reasons:
- Catalysis is, as noted, a multidisciplinary science and the project is already profiting from interactions with other physical sciences programmes in the RCaH (especially the imaging project with whom we will have a joint studentship starting in autumn 2013). Strong interactions with life sciences projects are anticipated in the future.
- The Centre is becoming a major user of synchrotron and neutron facilities and usage of laser facilities is anticipated. Our close proximity to the facilities is a major advantage in ensuring their effective exploitation.
- The location and ready access to the site and the fact that for university teams it is “neutral territory” has proved to be a major advantage in establishing the centre as the physical hub for the UK national catalysis programme.
More generally the Harwell/RAL campus is an increasingly strong base for an internationally leading collaborative scientific programme.