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Dr Karen Wilson Awarded Royal Society Industry Fellowship Award

19 March 2011

Royal Society

Dr Karen Wilson has been awarded a Royal Society Industry Fellowship to work with Johnson Matthey over the next four years to nano-engineer a new generation of heterogeneous catalysts for biofuel production. Karen's research focuses on the development of heterogeneous catalysts for application in clean chemical synthesis, with a particular interest in the utilisation of renewable resources as chemicals and fuels.

Tackling the current world energy crisis is recognised as a top priority for both developed and developing nations, with alternative energy sources urgently sought in response to both diminishing world oil reserves and increasing environmental concerns over global climate change. Second generation bio-fuels derived from waste or non-food biomass sources are currently at a pre-commercial phase, and if they are to meet targets for implementation by 2015-2020 significant technical hurdles to the chemical transformation of biomass need to be overcome. Catalysis has a rich history of facilitating energy efficient selective molecular transformations and contributes to 90% of chemical manufacturing processes and to more than 20% of all industrial products. Recent advances in chemical synthesis, nanotechnology and spectroscopy now offer an unprecedented opportunity to sculpt the atomic structure of solid catalysts and to peer inside their microscopic workings and can aid the design of catalysts for bio-fuel synthesis.

Royal Society Industry fellowships are awarded to enhance knowledge transfer in science and technology between those in industry and those in academia. During the Fellowship Karen will work closely with Johnson Matthey, one of the leading global catalyst manufacturers, to employ these new experimental and spectroscopic breakthroughs to aid an improved understanding of catalyst performance, with a vision of developing a new generation of catalysts to accelerate the commercialisation of biomass-to-fuels processes.