- Figure 2: Principal Beamline Scientist, Giannantonio Cibin, in the experimental hutch of B18.
Catalysis is a core area of contemporary science, engineering and technology that has substantial economic and societal impact. Although rooted in chemistry and chemical engineering, catalytic science is now largely multidisciplinary, drawing strongly from materials and bio-sciences.
The Hub is a national network with over 35 collaborating universities. It was established in 2013 with funding from EPSRC to coordinate, promote and advance the UK catalysis research portfolio. Its physical centre is located next door to Diamond at the Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH). The project has five themes each directed by a lead investigator from five partner universities:
- Catalyst Design: Led by Prof Richard Catlow, UCL and based in the RCaH
- Catalysis for Energy: Led by Prof Christopher Hardacre, Queen’s University Belfast
- Catalysis for Chemical Transformations: Led by Prof Matthew Davidson, Bath
- Environmental Catalysis: Led by Prof Graham Hutchings, Cardiff
- Bio Catalysis and BioTransformations : Led by Prof Nick Turner, Manchester
The Hub provides a platform for researchers to work collectively and gain frequent access to the Diamond synchrotron, as well as other facilities at Harwell. A whole system approach to the study of catalysis combined with high throughput allows optimal experiments to be carried out which shorten the path to development of commercially useful products, and promote the UK catalysis effort and expertise on a global stage. The Hub has strong links with industry which are coordinated by an Industrial Advisory Panel comprising of several UK and international industrial members.
One of the main benefits of the Catalysis Hub is sustained access to a synchrotron radiation source. Members of the Hub may apply for access to Diamond through a Beamtime Access Group (BAG), which provides the team with access to the Core EXAFS beamline (B18) per allocation period. This access route increases the efficiency of data acquisition by coordinating projects to reduce the dead time of experimental setup, and by allocating small amounts of time for proof of concept investigations before a full study starts. Applications are judged by a panel of expert academics and beamline scientists, who consider (i) the quality of the underpinning science, (ii) the likely success of the experiments, (iii) bringing in new users of synchrotron radiation, and (iv) coordinating time effectively to maximise efficiency.
This opportunity is open to every academic working in catalysis in the UK. The model of access brings together complementary expertise to ensure that experimental time is maximised, and presents opportunities for researchers that have not used a synchrotron before. The Catalysis Hub team have worked with a variety of catalysis samples, and the B18 beamline team know exactly how to get the best out of the samples they are working on.
The UK catalysis Hub also presents a training experience; a number of PhD students have been placed at the RCaH working on catalysis projects with the Hub. This initiative forms part of the Hub’s aim to develop the next generation of catalytic scientists, through courses, conferences, PhD programmes, summer schools and outreach activities.