Catalysis Professor on Queen’s Birthday Honours list

13 June 2018

Professor Graham Hutchings

Professor Graham Hutchings, Regius Professor of Physical Chemistry at Cardiff University and Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, has become a CBE for chemistry and innovation in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

As one of the world’s pre-eminent figures in the field of catalysis, Professor Hutchings has made a substantial contribution to society through a number of pioneering discoveries that have had a genuine impact on our everyday lives.

Professor Hutchings’ most notable discovery is that gold is a remarkable catalyst for certain reactions, most specifically for the production of vinyl chloride, the main ingredient of the world’s most commonly used plastic, PVC. As a direct result of his research, a gold catalyst is now being manufactured by UK chemicals company Johnson Matthey at a purpose-built facility in China -- the first time in over 50 years that a complete overhaul in catalyst formulation has been implemented to produce a commodity chemical.

More importantly, the gold catalyst has replaced a toxic mercury catalyst that was previously used for this reaction, which is not only extremely harmful to the environment but also listed as a threat to human health by the WHO.

Testament to the impact of Professor Hutchings’ research, he has been given several high-profile awards and honours throughout his career. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society – the highest honour for a UK scientist – and received the Royal Society’s prestigious Davy Medal in 2013.

As evidence of his academic reputation on the international stage, Professor Hutchings was named as a Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate in 2012 – an indicator of candidates likely to receive the Nobel Prize in their respective fields. In 2014 Professor Hutchings was also listed by Thomson Reuters as one of the most cited researchers in the world, and in 2016 was listed as one of the world’s ‘most influential scientific minds’ by the same organisation.

As Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, Professor Hutchings has created a world class centre of excellence that has helped to bring a wealth of expertise to Wales and the United Kingdom. The expertise, facilities and infrastructure of the Institute have produced new catalytic processes with the help of industry partners and promoted catalysis as a sustainable 21st century technology.

Professor Hutchings’ leadership of the CCI contributed to Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry being awarded a Regius Professorship from Her Majesty the Queen to commemorate her 90th birthday. This was the first time that this honour was bestowed on a university in Wales, with only 14 Regius Professorships granted since the reign of Queen Victoria.

Professor Damien Murphy, Professor of Physical Chemistry and Head of the School of Chemistry, said: “I am very pleased that Prof. Hutchings has received a CBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Chemistry and Innovation. This is a well-deserved recognition for all his fantastic achievements and successes in academia and research over the past 40 years.”