Cardiff’s £7m role researching greener planet

8 October 2018

Graham Hutchings

A £7m investment in research will help Cardiff University scientists play a key role in developing cleaner, greener industrial processes.

Experts in catalysis – the study of materials which speed up chemical reactions – will focus on ways of tackling environmental issues facing the planet, from plastics and pollution to water purity.

Researchers from Cardiff Catalysis Institute will receive the funding as part of a £14m investment in Oxfordshire’s UK Catalysis Hub by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The backing will help Cardiff, partner universities and industry develop joint research projects at the Hub, which is based alongside other major scientific facilities in the Research Complex at Harwell.

The Hub will co-ordinate a collaborative research program across the UK with 25 universities directly involved in projects, and over 45 involved in a wider network across the catalysis community.

Established in 2013 through a £12.9m investment, the Hub has brought together scientists and chemical engineers, providing shared facilities, networking and training to support research in partner institutions.

One of the Hub’s Principal Investigators, Professor Richard Catlow, Cardiff Catalysis Institute, said: “Catalysis is at the heart of the green agenda. This latest round of funding will allows us to work directly with industry to develop cleaner car engine emissions, discover catalysts that can help reduce global plastic waste in the ‘circular economy’, develop catalysts for water purification, and find ways of utilising carbon dioxide in new products and processes.

Catalysts are best known for their use in vehicle exhaust systems, where they help break down the toxic gases produced by car engines before they are released into the atmosphere.

They have many commercial applications and can help scale up chemical processes from the lab to sizes and speeds which can be used in industry.

EPSRC funding will also provide significant backing for research work by scientists at the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Manchester and University College London.

Professor Graham Hutchings, Director of the UK Catalysis Hub and Cardiff Catalysis Institute, added: “The Hub brings together forty university groups across the UK. We have established strong, enduring partnerships with industry, and provided a platform for our work which is widely known and recognised internationally. World-class equipment on the Harwell Campus – including neutron, synchrotron and laser facilities - has helped us build collaborations through multidisciplinary and multi-institution projects.”

Catalysis lies at the heart of the chemicals industry. The UK is ranked 7th in the world for catalysis revenue, generating £50bn a year.