Professor Graham Hutchings of the School of Chemistry has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), one of the highest honours in the academic world. The Royal Society awards the lifetime Fellowships to the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists in the UK and the Commonwealth. The awards are widely regarded in the scientific world as second only to a Nobel Prize in prestige. Professor Hutchings has been elected for his pioneering contributions in the use of gold for catalysis – the process for making chemical reactions go faster. He was the first to predict and subsequently demonstrate that gold would be a highly effective catalyst for ethyne hydrochlorination, thereby establishing a new field of catalysis.
His research has resulted in furthering the understanding of how catalysts can be used in filters to remove carbon monoxide. This has applications in submarines, fire fighters' breathing apparatus and even spaceships. Professor Hutchings' work has helped ensure such life-saving catalysts work more efficiently and with a less damaging effect on the environment. Professor Hutchings, Professor of Physical Chemistry and Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, was also Head of School for Chemistry from 1997 to 2006. He has had a long and distinguished career, devoting much of his time to the understanding and application of catalysis theory and function in methane oxidative coupling, alkane oxidation and gold catalysis.
Among his most influential work is his research which led to the invention of an efficient way of incorporating oxygen directly from the air into the hydrocarbon molecules found in oil and gas. His findings supported one of the most exciting developments of the last 20 years in this field, which recognised gold as an important new catalyst - until the 1980s gold was considered to be an inactive metal for catalysis purposes.