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The University of Southampton

New concepts for sustainable manufacturing could transform the chemical industry

Published: 16 May 2011
Dr Robert Raja

Research at Southampton that could lead to the development of new fuels and new sustainable manufacturing methods has won international recognition.

Dr Robert Raja’s paper Design Strategies for Engineering Selectivity in Bio-Inspired Heterogeneous Catalysts has been published and selected as a ‘hot article’ in the prestigious academic journal Catalysis Science & Technology.

His research, aided by PhD students David Xuereb and Joanna Dzierzak, is based on harnessing the activity and selectivity advantages observed in enzymes and engineering catalysts to carry out chemical transformations that can be applied on an industrial scale. These strategies for supporting bio-inspired catalysts can also be applied to more contemporary metal-free catalysts, which can be utilised for industrially-significant, fine-chemical applications.

“Judiciously designed solid catalysts with a high surface area, based on exploiting the inherent advantages of enzymes, have promising potential in facilitating atom-efficiency and selectivity in expensive industrial chemical processes that produce much waste material” explains Robert. “One example is the manufacture of nylon. For every ton of nylon made by conventional methods, four tons of toxic ammonium sulphate is produced as a by-product. Designing highly active catalysts that are inspired from enzymes is far more efficient and sustainable.”

In future, essential chemical reactions catalysed by bio-inspired catalysts could also aid the process of producing innovative new fuels, for example, converting renewable raw materials into the valuable biofuels.

Robert and his team have patented their fundamental concepts and are currently collaborating with major chemical, energy and pharmaceutical companies in the US and Europe

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'Most Accessed' article

Dr Robert Raja's article ‘Design strategies for engineering selectivity in bio-inspired heterogeneous catalysts’ was one of the top ten most-read articles from the online version of Catalysis Science & Technology for March 2011

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