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Today’s waste, tomorrow’s fuel

05 July 2007

A Cardiff University research collaboration is working to recycle precious metals from road dusts and vehicle exhausts to create greener energy.

The innovative research by scientists from the School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Science working with the University of Birmingham is to be featured at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (2-5 July).

Catalytic converters which keep exhaust pollutants from vehicles down to an acceptable level all use platinum, however over the years the platinum is slowly lost through exhaust pipes. Dr Hazel Prichard, School of Earth Ocean and Planetary Science estimates that many kilogrammes of platinum is being sprayed onto streets and roads every year.

Dr Prichard said: "Platinum is a vital component not only of catalytic converters but also of fuel cells. Fuel cells are an important new source of clean energy. Platinum is a precious metal and resources are scarce and expensive. Our research is looking at ways of recycling platinum and other precious metals."

Dr Prichard is working with her team to find locations where platinum is concentrated enough to recover in order to develop cost-effective and sustainable ways to re-use this finite resource. One prime target is the waste containers in road-sweepers.

The research collaboration is also exploring how food wastes, and ‘friendly’ bacteria can be used to create greener energy. Their goal is to see these techniques being applied to produce clean fuel cells to create reliable, greener energy whilst minimising waste.


EARTH 4 RS Summer exhibit

Notes to Editors:

1. Cardiff School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences
Cardiff University’s School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences is one of the top geoscience units in the UK, rated 5A in most research independent Research Assessment Exercise. It is a large, international research school with more than 30 leading international research scientists.. The postgraduate research school currently numbers about 35 students studying a diverse range of research problems. These researchers are addressing some of the most significant research themes in world science at the moment, including global change, the origin and evolution of life, environmental science, natural resource exploration, and the evolution of Earth and planets.

2. Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research with its proud heritage of service and achievement. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. From its outstanding central location amidst the parks, Portland-stone buildings and tree-lined avenues that form the city’s elegant civic centre, the University’s students and staff are drawn from throughout the world, attracted by its international reputation and commitment to innovation and excellence in all areas of activity. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of Britain’s leading research universities. Having gained national and international standing, Cardiff University’s vision is to be a world-class university and to achieve the associated benefits for its students, staff and all other stakeholders.

Visit the University website at:

3. The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is held annually at the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science. The event is free and open to the public. This year, 23 interactive exhibits will be on show presenting the best of UK science, engineering and technology. During the four days of the event, more than 4,000 people are expected to take up the opportunity to explore the exhibition.

The Exhibition runs from Monday 2 to Thursday 5 July 2007. Press preview: 15.00 - 17.00 Monday 2 July

Further information can be found at

Further Information:

For more information, please contact:

Dr Hazel Prichard /Dr Matt Jackson
School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Science
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 2087 4830
Email: /

Emma Darling
Public Relations
Cardiff University
Tel: 029 20874499

Clare Kingston
The Royal Society
Tel: 0207 4512508