The UK Catalysis Hub was created in 2013 with EPSRC funding with the aim to establish a world-leading, comprehensive and coordinated programme of catalytic science in the UK; to develop new knowledge and promote innovation in and translation of catalytic science and technology; and to enable the UK to regain and retain its world leading position in catalysis. The scientific structure of the Hub was initially built round four main themes: Catalysis by Design; Energy, Environment and Chemical Transformations, with 28 initial projects. In January 2014, the Hub held a town meeting for the Catalysis and Biocatalysts industrial and academic communities, which led to the addition of the 5th theme, Biocatalysis and Biotransformations, in November 2014 with EPSRC Funding.
A key feature of the Hub ethos is that all projects involve multi–institutional collaborations bringing teams of researchers with diverse expertise together to tackle the big challenges facing the UK. The Hub now has over 40 collaborating institutions, and has supported 82 novel and topical projects in catalytic science between 2013 and 2018 following calls for proposals. This approach allows Hub science to evolve and to address key current and future challenges – e.g. catalysis for deNOx reactions, and biobutanol production and utilisation – as well as ongoing support for strategically relevant problems such as water purification, particulate destruction in automotive exhaust and clean hydrogen production. These projects have led to over 195 publications so far with 14 projects involving industrial CoIs. The Hub has placed considerable emphasis on the development of a strong, active network for catalytic science in the UK and has contributed to the development of the field by promoting new collaborations and techniques, fostering community interaction, support for Early career researchers and strengthening the technical base of the UK.
The physical hub is in the Research Complex at Harwell, (RCaH) and includes first class facilities for research in catalytic science, including a suite of catalysis laboratories for the preparation and analysis of catalysts as a resource for the whole community. The laboratories have been used effectively by visiting scientists (academic and industrial) including those undertaking experimental work on the central facilities; and have been visited by groups across the UK, while promoting fruitful interactions with other groups in the RCaH and the Harwell campus more broadly. A key component of the work of the Hub, has been its strong relationships with the world leading facilities on the Harwell campus, including the Diamond Light Source, the ISIS neutron facility and more recently the Central Laser Facility (CLF); where work of the Hub team has led to the growing use and development of the facilities for catalytic science.
Notable achievements include:
· X-Ray spectroscopy in catalytic science; where the Catalysis Hub in association with Diamond has led a highlysuccessful Block Allocation Group (BAG) on the Core XAFS beamline. The Hub has also developed a number of in situ analysis techniques including operando XAFS/DRIFTS technique, which has been widely used by the catalysis community.
· Growth in the application of neutron scattering techniques; especially neutron spectroscopy. Here our strongrelationship with ISIS has focused on community engagement as well as scientific and has led to a large increase in the use of neutron techniques for catalysis. Particularly notable has been the rapid growth in the use inelastic neutron scattering (INS) for in situ spectroscopy and Quasi Elastic Neutron Scattering (QENS) and small angle scattering probing molecular transport, surface speciation and confined liquid structures for a range of catalytic systems.
· Development of laser techniques in catalytic science, where McGregor (Sheffield) has led a Hub project on Opticaltweezers for interrogation of catalysts and Beale, (RCaH, UCL) has developed techniques including Kerr gated Raman and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM) for catalysis applications.
The EPSRC announced a further £14 million investment into the Catalysis Hub 2018-2023. In addition the Hub has over 27 industrial partners who have committed over £1.4 million in cash and in-kind contributions to the Hub as well as over £2.5 million in contribution from the UK Universities. The next phase of the UK Catalysis Hub will build on this success and while retaining the key features and structure of the current Hub will extend its programmes both nationally and internationally. The core activities include our coordinating activities, comprising our influential and well attended conference, workshop and training programs, our growing outreach and dissemination. The core programme will coordinate the scientific themes of the Hub, which in the initial stages of the next phase will comprise: Optimising, Predicting and Designing New Catalysts, Catalysis at the Water and Energy Nexus and Catalysis for the Circular Economy and Sustainable Manufacturing.