Catalysis is a core area of science that lies at the heart of the chemicals industry - an immensely successful and important part of the overall UK economy, where in recent years the UK output has totalled over £50B annually and is ranked 7th in the world. This position is being maintained in the face of immense competition worldwide. For the UK to sustain its leading position it is essential that innovation in research is maintained, to achieve which the UK Catalysis Hub was established in 2013. The Hub has succeeded over the last four years in bringing together over 40 university groups for innovative and collaborative research programmes in this key area of contemporary science. The success of the Hub can be attributed to its inclusive and open ethos which has resulted in many groups joining its network since its foundation in 2013; to its strong emphasis on collaboration; and to its physical hub on the Harwell campus in close proximity to the Diamond synchrotron, ISIS neutron source and Central Laser Facility, whose successful exploitation for catalytic science has been a major feature of the recent science of the Hub.
The next phase of the Catalysis Hub will build on this success and, while retaining the key features and structure of the current hub, will extend its programmes both nationally and internationally. The future hub structure will comprise a core programme which will coordinate the scientific themes of the Hub, which in the initial stages of the next phase will comprise:
- Optimising, predicting and designing new catalysts
- Catalysis at the water-energy nexus
- Catalysis for the circular economy and sustainable manufacturing
- Biocatalysis and bio-transformations.
The present project concerns the third of these themes whose overall aim is to develop fundamental catalysis with circular and sustainable approaches at their core. This will be of current and future importance to the chemical and chemistry-using industries. The project will comprise he following areas supported by specific workpackages:
- New cooperative catalysts for C-C bond forming reactions from CO2;
- Activation of C-O bonds for valorisation of bio-derived feedstocks;
- Using and understanding sustainable catalytic oxidation processes in flow;
- Earth-abundant metals in resource efficient catalysis;
- Keeping platform molecules in play: catalytic chemical recycling of polymers;
- New sustainable polymer architectures for high performance plastics;
- Optimising bio-based platform molecules: establishing diformyl furan as a bio-based platform for polymers.
The project will interact strongly with the other hub science projects. The Hub structure is intrinsically multidisciplinary including extensive input from engineering as well as science disciplines and with strong interaction and cross-fertilisation between the different themes. The thematic structure will allow the Hub to cover the major areas of current catalytic science.