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After the Goldrush: addressing global sustainability challenges by changing perceptions in catalyst design

In this EU-funded programme we aim to design breakthrough catalysts by exploiting the learning gained from recent step-change advances in gold catalysis, many of these originating here in Cardiff. We hope to deliver new highly-efficient catalysts with optimum surface morphology, metal-metal contact and metal-support interaction, which can be applied to reactions related to global sustainability challenges. Our approach is to use non-conventional and relatively new methods of catalyst preparation, namely: sol immobilisation, chemical vapour methods, chemical leaching or use of supercritical CO2 as an antisolvent.

The component projects cover two emerging challenges to society: a) energy vectors and green house control and b) sustainable chemical synthesis.

Being aware of the hydrogen demand in a post-petroleum era, we are addressing the specific challenge of hydrogen generation. For this purpose we are investigating two reactions: low temperature water gas shift and ammonia dissociation. A second, very important global problem is the greenhouse effect. N2O accounts for only 315 ppb of the atmosphere, however, it has a global warming potential of 300 and an ozone depletion potential comparable to many HCFCs. In our work we will focus on designing N2O dissociation catalysts that will operate at near-ambient temperatures in a passive reactor, and will not be poisoned by any other gas-phase species.

The second part of the programme focuses on sustainable chemical synthesis. Here we look at two routes: utilisation of CO2 for production of chemicals and oxidation of hydrocarbons under mild conditions. We are currently developing a catalytic process in which CO2 is used to promote the dehydrogenation of short chain alkanes. The team also work on application of CO2 as a building block for organic carbonates. In the subject of selective oxidation of alkanes with molecular oxygen, we are using our previous experience in C-H activation applying it now to the transformation of >C9 alkanes into aldehydes or acids.

Programme Director: Prof. Graham Hutchings

Programme Team: Raiedhah Alsaiari, Cicely Giles, James Carter, Dr Ewa Nowicka, Dr Sarwat Iqbal, Dr Jennifer Edwards, Dr Simon Freakley, Dr Stuart Taylor, Prof. Stan Golunski, Dr David Willock.

Contact: Dr Ewa Nowicka,, tel. (+44) 02920874061

Environmental catalysis

Target process for new catalysts