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£3M generates new sustainable energy research at Queen’s


Leading chemists from Queen’s University have been awarded £3million to create new methods of sustainable energy and to create technologies which will lower the cost of power.

Already the UK leader in Green Chemistry research, the team, from Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, will also work on transforming fossil fuel resources more efficiently and improving energy storage.

The funding has been announced by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, as part of a UK-wide investment of £12.9 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to create a UK Catalysis Hub. The Hub will focus on supporting UK economic growth while helping reduce CO2 emissions, produce cleaner water and generate more sustainable energy.

Catalysis science is at the heart of today’s industrial processes. Virtually all the manufactured goods we consume, have, at some point in their manufacture, involved the use of a catalyst to speed up the chemical reactions as this makes their production possible on commercial and useful timescales.

Professor Christopher Hardacre from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen’s is leading the Catalysis for Energy aspect of the Hub said: “This funding is tremendously important as the world urgently needs to develop greater sustainability and efficiency in energy use. Queen’s will focus on converting renewable sources such as solar and biomass into chemical and electrochemical energy for use in power generation, for example, fuel cells for cars and mobile phones to domestic and commercial combined heat and power systems.  By studying the overall processes involved we will be able to see how making changes to them can improve efficiency and develop systems for clean, reliable energy.”

Queen’s is already partners with some of the world’s leading industrial giants, including the Malaysian petro-chemical company Petronas, which chose Queen’s as the base for its only European-based university research laboratory. Its expertise in Green Chemistry has also made the area a focus of the University’s ambitious £140M Beyond fundraising effort which is aiming to help Queen’s build on its excellence in globally recognised areas of research.

Speaking about the new Catalysis Hub, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science said:  “Catalysis science is vital for many areas of the UK economy, from food production to pharmaceuticals. This investment will provide a focal point for the UK’s leading expertise in this area, helping scientists further develop their skills and undertake cutting edge research to drive sustainable growth.”

David Delpy, Chief Executive of EPSRC, said: “The UK has some outstanding researchers in the field of Catalysis, and it is a vital field for UK industry with a major role to play in the creation of new or improved processes. That is why EPSRC is strategically investing in this Catalysis Hub. Building on our previous initiatives, it will draw academics and institutions together to further enable cross-disciplinary research, and create a critical mass of activity which will enhance the international standing of the UK catalysis community and help it address the major challenges faced in the Physical Sciences, Energy, Manufacturing and Healthcare themes.”

The new UK Catalysis Hub will be divided up into four different themes: Catalyst Design, Catalysis for Energy, Environmental Catalysis and Catalysis for Chemical Transformations.

Separately, Professor Christopher Hardacre, has been awarded the inaugural IChemE Andrew Medal in recognition of his contribution to the field of heterogeneous catalysis. He will be presented with the prize, at the Institution's first Chemical Engineering and Catalysis conference in London in June. Professor Hardacre's research is recognized as world-leading and brings together chemical engineers and chemists.

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