greener planet
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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 £16m investment in Oxfordshire’s UK Catalysis Hub by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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.

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 allow 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.

“The UK Catalysis Hub has proved a real success because it provides a neutral, off-campus collaborative space with no single university ‘lead,’ whilst providing the very best catalytic research equipment. It has allowed early career researchers to go directly into industry, and provided a platform for shared insights, expertise and future collaborations.”

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.

Professor Lynn Gladden EPSRC’s Executive Chair, said “Catalysis is important for UK and global industry, generating £50 billion a year for the UK economy, as well as intellectual property for big and small UK companies and universities.

“This further funding for catalysis research will help our research communities and industries develop new products and processes that will bring economic and social benefit to the UK. We have to maintain our research capability to keep our nation productive and resilient.”


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