Facilities at the Physical Hub
The physical hub in the RCaH has been crucial to the success of the whole Hub project. It has provided first class facilities for research in catalytic science, which are a resource for the whole community. The laboratories have been used effectively by visiting scientists and the Hub team at Harwell including those undertaking experimental work on the central facilities, while promoting fruitful interactions other groups in the RCAH and the Harwell campus more broadly.
Custom catalysis labs
The UK Catalysis Hub has developed custom catalysis labs and analysis at the RCAH including a gas handling laboratory and provided the bespoke catalysis instrumentation (EPSRC Grant EP/K005030/1). The ring-main system has eight lines for different specialty gases, with each gas having ten individually regulated drop-off points around the laboratory. The catalysis equipment currently available includes: (i) rapid scanning FT-IR with combined XAFS/ DRIFTS capabilities with Custom designed Portable gas handling system, (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, (viii) Quantocrome four station BET surface area analyser and vii) Quantchrom ChemBET TPO/TPD analyster.
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.). 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 Diamond Light Source (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.
Diamond Light Source and ISIS
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.
Over the next five years The Hub will provide high throughput sample environments for both in situ and ex situ XAFS analysis, reactive gas environments for Quasielastic Neutron Scattering and an in situ spatially resolved plug flow reactor for neutron diffraction of liquid phase heterogeneously catalysed reactions with combined liquid phase composition analysis. Also, we will build a plug-flow reactor to be used initially in conjunction with optical microscopy platforms such as confocal and fluorescence lifetime imaging and eventually with super-resolution techniques such as SIM, STED and STORM.
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). 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.