Partnership to create technology for sustainable chemical industry

The Cardiff Catalysis Institute and Max Planck Centre on the Fundamentals of Het
The Cardiff Catalysis Institute and Max Planck Centre on the Fundamentals of Heterogeneous Catalysis (FUNCAT) are based in Cardiff University’s Translational Research Hub - part of its new £300 million Innovation Campus, which combines cutting-edge research facilities, technology transfer, business development and student enterprise.

A new partnership will bring together world-leading experts to create catalysts for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly chemical industry.

The team of scientists from the Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI) and Cardiff University’s Max Planck Centre on the Fundamentals of Heterogeneous Catalysis (FUNCAT) will make and characterise new catalysts in collaboration with the Catalysis Hub in Harwell, Max Planck Institute für Kohlenforschung (KOFO) in Mulheim, the Fritz-Haber-Institute of the Max Planck Society (FHI) in Berlin, and the Instituto de Tecnologia Quimica (ITQ) in Valencia.

Supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the partnership will enable exchange of expertise and cutting-edge facilities between the centres of research excellence in the UK and across Europe.

It is estimated that at least 80% of manufactured goods require a catalyst - a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction - during their production.

"As a result, researchers are looking for new ways to make chemicals that rely on green and sustainable carbon sources. This new partnership with colleagues here in the UK, in Germany, and in Spain aims to accelerate the production of important chemicals and intermediates in a sustainable way."

Acetylene is one molecule that has the potential to be an essential intermediate for a sustainable chemical industry, according to the team of researchers.

Developed over a century ago, acetylene chemistry was displaced by readily available ethene derived from oil. However, acetylene can be made from renewable non-fossil fuel resources, such as bio-gas and this offers great potential.

Professor Taylor added: "A revival of acetylene chemistry could be crucial for a new green chemical industry because of its potential to create a renewable source of carbon.

"So, one of the aims of our international centre to centre research collaboration is to design and understand a new class of catalysts to produce key chemicals and intermediates from acetylene."

Their research will focus on understanding what controls the activity of these catalysts in specific reactions.

Across laboratories in the UK and Europe, the teams will draw on complementary areas of expertise including Cardiff’s advanced microscopy and catalyst synthesis, high-pressure facilities for acetylene catalysis at KOFO, the fundamental surface science and advanced characterisation techniques available at Harwell and FHI, the advanced computational methodologies of the FHI and CCI and the synthetic expertise concerning nanoparticles of ITQ.

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