The project had four mature themes and a fifth theme which started in 2015, each with a lead investigator as PI – Catalysis by Design (Catlow); Energy (Hardacre); Environment (Hutchings); Chemical Transformations (Davidson) and the new Biocatalysis and Biotransformations (Nick Turner Manchester) – with the design theme based in the Harwell hub.
Each theme was supported by £3 – 3.5M EPSRC funding over 5 years and within each theme there are typically six to eight sub-projects funded initially for 2 years, involving collaborative teams working at a variety of sites throughout the UK. Professor Hutchings acted as director of the whole national programme for the first three year period and chaired the management group, which was supported by a steering group and an industrial advisory panel.
During the initial phase of the UK Catalysis Hub there were five main themes of research:
Catalysis By Design
Led by Professor Richard Catlow
The aim of the Catalyst By Design (Design) theme is to develop Fundamental knowledge of structure and mechanism promoting innovation. This theme focuses on i) Computational Modelling. ii) Use of cutting edge Facilities including synchrotrons such as Diamond Light source, neutron sources including ISIS and Laser facilities and iii)Multi scale and multi-technique approach: from nano- to macro. This theme will be primarily hosted at the RCaH hub and will interact with all other themes.
Led by Professor Graham Hutchings
The Environmental Catalysis theme aims to Use catalysis to make the world a better place. The theme will combine heterogeneous, homogeneous and bio catalysis together with experimental and theoretical approaches to attack key problems including i) Improved atom efficiency – eradicating waste. ii) Environmental cleanup – dealing with waste. iii) New green applications – catalysis in new domains. And iv) Use of bio-renewable resources – CO2
Led by Professor Matthew Davidson
The Chemical Transformations theme aims to promote the prosperity of the UK manufacturing base in fine and bulk chemicals, polymers and pharmaceuticals areas of research include : i)Enhancing selectivity and sustainability of existing processes, ii) Pharmaceutical process chemistry; synthesis gas conversion; renewable polymers, iii) New catalytic approaches to transformations including Catalysis in confined environments; transition metal free catalysis; biocatalysis for new chemical transformations and iv) Combination of biocatalysis, homogeneous and heterogeneous, organo- and metal-based catalysis
Catalysis for Energy
The catalysis for energy theme aims to use fundamental science & engineering to develop innovative & practical solutions for current and future energy needs including i) Gas to liquid transformation, ii)Synthesis and utilisation of biofuels, iii) Process integration and intensification for efficient energy usage and storage, and iv) Photocatalytic water splitting
Biocatlaysis and Biotransformations
Led by Professor Nick Turner
Biocatalysis & biotransformations’ was submitted to EPSRC with the aim of strengthening Hub capability, growing UK excellence in this fundamental area of catalysis, and integrate biocatalysis research across the full remit of the Hub’s catalysis portfolio. Biocatalytic processes underpin future manufacturing routes across the entirety of the chemical sciences, with all principal sectors of the industry (pharmaceuticals, home and personal care, food and drink, polymers, crop protection and lubricants) being dependent on advances in the area.