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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J018139/1
Title: Clean catalysis for sustainable development
Principal Investigator: Kamer, Professor PCJ
Other Investigators:
Smith, Professor AD Clarke, Professor ML Westwood, Professor N
Cazin, Dr C S J Nolan, Professor SP Buehl, Professor M
Cole-Hamilton, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Sasol Technology
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: University of St Andrews
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2012 Ends: 31 October 2017 Value (£): 2,117,953
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Catalysis & Applied Catalysis
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
EP/J018090/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Apr 2012 EPSRC Physical Sciences Chemistry - April 2012 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
A sustainable society requires the efficient use of energy and renewable matter. It consequently demands selective new methodologies for the preparation of advanced materials. In this context and as resources based on fossil reserves are rapidly depleting, there are two requirements: first, a change from traditional stoichiometric, high energy methods that produce huge amounts of chemical waste to mild and clean catalytic processes; second, a major step change in chemicals production with fossil fuels being replaced by renewable resources as chemical starter units.

The long term aim and vision of catalysis research at EaStCHEM and of this Critical Mass proposal in particular is to develop all-catalytic routes to useful chemicals from renewable resources. We will provide a research environment that both improves and expands the wide range of catalytic processes used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. To do this we will exploit renewable and alternative feedstocks including CO2, lignocellulose and other feedstocks formed on multimillion tonnes scale as waste products from agriculture and wood processing.

This proposed change in how we access our essential chemicals requires a new generation of catalysts. The challenge is even larger because the renewable substrates are not only difficult to activate (CO2, lignin) but are often available not as pure substrates but as components of a very diverse crude mixtures (e.g. methyl oleate in tall oil). Therefore, novel robust catalysts are required which are capable of combining high activity with superb selectivity and substrate compatibility. The required selectivity resulting in high atom economy, efficiency and environmental factor will only be feasible through the development of new scientific and technological tools. To achieve this challenging objective, existing catalysts must undergo major improvements and new catalysts must be designed for as yet uncatalyzed reactions. As we believe homogenous catalysts offer the unique combination of unprecedented activities and high selectivity, it is timely to combine EaStCHEM's strengths in homogeneous catalysis in this critical mass program to develop sustainable production methods by changing to all-catalytic conversions of renewable feedstocks.

The switch to a society which relies on chemical production from all-renewable resources is a challenge of GRAND proportions, and a roadmap for this change must be broken down into smaller components with suitable experts addressing achievable goals. In this proposal we have assessed the strengths in catalysis across EaStCHEM and have designed projects at a variety of risk levels that will significantly impact on the overall change necessary in the challenging move "from oil to biomass". We will:

1. use CO2 as an ever abundant C1 building block in chemical processes that exploit newly developed state-of-the-art catalytic transformations for C-H activation/carboxylation, polymer formation, as well as electro- and chemical reduction processes.

2. We will develop optimal catalysts for ether cleavage in 'real life samples' of lignin for maximising the potential of lignocellulose as a source of fuels and fine chemicals. By combining our expertise in ligand design and computational methods we will develop efficient catalyst based on N-heterocyclic carbenes, wide bite angle phosphines and oxidative enzymes and chemocatalysts.

3. We will develop novel catalytic methods to convert renewable and waste feedstocks to important products such as fuels, chemicals and polymers.

As we anticipate that this combined effort will include the de-novo development of new catalyst we will also create a ligand and catalyst synthesis and discovery centre which will support the catalyst development process of all the workpackages for the full duration of the project and thereafter. By focusing our experience and skills in catalysis, we will contribute to a post-fossil fuels world.
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Organisation Website: http://www.st-and.ac.uk