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Initial Environmental Catalysis Projects

Project 1: New advances in redox catalysis.

The aim is to design new redox catalysts based on supported bimetallic nanoparticles where the properties will be fine tuned by (a) control of the composition and morphology of the nanoparticles, (b) control of the nature of the support-metal interface.

Project 2: Towards closing the chlorine cycle in large-scale chemical manufacturing processes 

The central theme of the workplan is to investigate the oxy-chlorination of CO to produce phosgene via the application of supported copper catalysts: CO + 1/2 O2 + 2 HCl → COCl2 + H2O Realization of this goal will provide the opportunity for the expanding isocyanate manufacturing industry to significantly reduce the large quantities of HCl waste streams currently generated. A combination of surface science coupled with theory will be used to predict favourable catalyst formulations, which will then be tested in a newly constructed facility. 

Project 3: Selective oxidation of alkanes 

In this project we will explore new catalytic methodologies exhibiting ultimate efficiency and specificity, which is highly relevant to the ‘environmental theme’ but has also strong links with the ‘catalyst design’ and ‘chemical transformations’ themes. The major targets of this project comprise redesigning enzyme active sites for atom economic catalysis. The chosen approach dovetails transition metal based homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis with biocatalysis. The enzymes Methane MonoOxygenase and Butane MonoOxygenase are multiprotein complexes containing redox cofactors rendering them unsuited for real catalytic applications. Therefore we plan to immobilize robust iron and manganese based oxidation catalysts in well-defined protein scaffolds. In addition powerful computational methods will be employed for de-novo enzyme design 

Project 4: Water treatment – combined hydrocarbon and nitrate removal

The aim is to design new photo active catalysts based on supported bimetallic nanoparticles aimed at the photodegradation of pollutants in water. In the longer term this project aims to be the precursor for a major effort on water purification, which can be a key theme for catalysis research at the UK Catalysis Hub. The photocatalytic properties will be fine tuned by (a) selections and control of the composition and morphology of the nanoparticles, (b) control of the nature of the support-metal interface and selection and preparation of the support matrix.

Project 5: Particulate destruction

The problem of catalysing immobilised carbon particulate by activating gas-phase oxidants will be addressed through an iterative study, starting from single-component catalytic materials and progressing to structured catalysts.  Initial screening will be followed by in-situ testing of the most promising candidates, before integration into a reactor that will trap and oxidise the particulate in one step.  It is based on the type of holistic approach favoured by industry, to solve a multiphase catalytic challenge posed by a pressing environmental issue.

Project 6: Autonomous Damage Repair

We are seeking to embed new types of catalyst within lightweight composite structures for advanced functionality, such as autonomous damage repair.  A critical aspect of this project in the context of the wider hub is that it will engage with collaborators, and in particular end-user communities, who are not traditional users of catalysis.  The project has strong technical links to the Chemical Transformations theme, in particular the polymerization catalysis project within this theme; knowledge and materials exchange between these projects is planned, and polymer characterization expertise and equipment will be shared. The project could also be badged as ‘Energy’ research in the sense that composite materials are used to manufacture off-shore wind turbine blades (where damage detection and repair is a particular concern) and the fuel savings which lighter composite materials yield are a significant reason for their use in aerospace. The ‘Catalyst Design’ theme is likely to underpin every project but it is noteworthy that we are seeking to heterogenise and activate catalysts in a new way which is biologically inspired – so links across all three catalysis areas are important. This is a project which aims to redefine and broaden what catalysis can do – an aim which is (should be!) an aspiration for the Catalysis Hub. 

In the first instance, new catalysts will be tested for polymerisation catalysis in solution using sonication, in line with previous studies. We will be careful to benchmark activity against the same catalysts activated thermally, and related systems without polymer substituents which cannot mechanically activate.  With successful catalysts in hand, we can explore mechanical activation in the solid state in collaboration with the engineering side of the team.

Project 7: Direct fixation of CO2.

This proposal relates to one of the most important problems facing humanity at the present time, namely global warming and the over-use of fossil fuels. So here we explore possibilities for using CO2 for making chemicals, and in particular, we will use novel catalysts (including photocatalysts and electrocatalysts) in an attempt to make simple, but critical intermediate products such as methanol and formic acid, which are currently made from fossil fuels (mainly methane). 

The initial phase of this project has been focussed on two aspects of the project, namely photocatalytic hydrogen production and gas phase heterogeneous CO2 hydrogenation. We have been identifying and developing the facilities for these areas and are now carrying out the experiments specifically in these areas. Experimentally, we are using batch processing at present for hydrogen production from sacrificial water splitting, but have advanced to produce hydrogen from either liquid phase or gas phase environments. We have begun using a plug flow reactor system at only 20 bar pressure for methanol synthesis from CO2/H2 and have had some success; we can make methanol with high (but not 100%) selectivity, at reasonable conversion. Medium term aims are to extend this work to continuous H2 production, and to  lower temperature, liquid phase methanol synthesis.

Project 8: Functionalising C-H bonds with CO2

 The project addresses true Grand Challenges in catalysis – in fact it addresses two: C-H functionalisation and the constructive use of CO2 in chemicals synthesis.  The programme takes advantage of our unique expertise in homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis in a synergistic holistic approach. Indeed it will be the pooling of this expertise that can be achieved with hub funding. 

Project 9: Direct DME synthesis from CO2/H2in a sustainable manner

This is a cross theme project spanning “Catalyst Design”, “Energy” and “Environmental Catalysis” themes. The aim is to design new catalysts for the effective production of DME from CO2/H2 in a single process. This will involve synthesis, characterisation and reaction measurements. This project will bring together heterogeneous catalysis and catalyst design (Cardiff, Harwell, UCL, Southampton) and interaction with the Hub facilities (RCAH and Diamond). Note that it will also involve interaction with the H2020 project which involves a range of European partners and aims to build a 5 ktonne plant in two years time; members of that collaboration will have an interest in this technology It therefore represents a multiinstitutional and multi-disciplinary approach to CO2 conversion, capturing renewable hydrogen in a useful liquid fuel.

Project 10: Particulate Destruction Combined with SCR for Simultaneous Soot and NOx Control

The catalytic combustion of soot particulate in an exhaust gas is a multi-phase problem, requiring both catalysis and filtration, which stretches our ability to design catalysts, identify and track reactive intermediates, and configure reactors. The integration of soot combustion with SCR for NOx control adds further complexity, which requires (i) advanced characterisation techniques to understand the synergy between the two components, and (ii) expertise in the specific field of exhaust-gas reaction engineering, in order to exploit that synergy in a single catalytic unit.
This project also straddles two other major themes within the Hub, namely Environment and Energy. This is because its outcomes will not only contribute to the mitigation of harmful pollutants, but they are also likely to reduce the fuel penalty associated with the current control strategies used on diesel passenger cars.

Our aim is to integrate soot combustion and SCR within one catalysed filtration unit, based on the understanding of the interplay between the two catalyst components that is emerging from our ongoing mechanistic studies.

Project 11: Optical tweezers for interrogation of catalysis

This is a request for a new project which explores the use of optical methods to explore the possibilities for in-situ studies of catalysis, which has tremendous potential as a new method1 of investigation of catalysts and catalysis. The aim is to utilise a new technological approach to investigate catalytic reactions in-situ. This will involve synthesis, characterisation, new reaction cell design and reaction measurements.

Project 12: Microwave assisted catalysis

Need proposal

Project 4: Water treatment – combined hydrocarbon and nitrate removal: a continuing investigation

The aim is to design new photo active catalysts based on supported bimetallic nanoparticles aimed at the photodegradation of pollutants in water. In the longer term this project aims to be the precursor for a major effort on water purification, which is expected to expand into a key theme for catalysis research at the UK Catalysis Hub. Indeed the plans are to apply for the 7th theme of the Hub based on the “Water Energy Nexus” and this project will provide a key resource to be built upon going forward. This project will be particularly relevant to Theme 3 Energy-efficient catalytic advanced oxidation processes for water and wastewater treatment. The photocatalytic properties will be fine-tuned by (a) selections and control of the composition and morphology of the nanoparticles; particularly exploring novel trimetallic formulations, (b) control of the nature of the support-metal interface and selection and preparation of the support matrix.