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The University of Southampton

Laboratory research into sustainable catalysts wins industrial award for Southampton Chemists

Published: 6 October 2014

Dr Robert Raja and his PhD student Matthew Potter have been awarded an Inventors’ Award from Honeywell Speciality Chemicals, USA, for their work on designing a novel catalytic system for the energy-efficient synthesis of Caprolactam, a precursor to nylon-6. Their innovations have helped the multinational company to produce the versatile fibres more efficiently and sustainably.

“Nylon is a valuable commodity because it can be used for many things ranging from furnishings and carpets to vehicle interior fabrics and fishing nets as well as clothes,” Robert explains. “In the US alone, the chemical industry produces several million metric tons of it a year, but the Southampton invention will help improve the atom-efficiency and overall yield of the process. Research at Southampton into improving the catalysts used in the process could directly benefit the large-scale manufacture of nylon worldwide.”

Over the last ten years Robert has worked with the international company on improving the catalytic process, both from a commercial and environmental perspective; the collaboration has resulted in five worldwide patents covering the gas and liquid phase catalytic Beckmann rearrangement of oximes to produce lactams. Honeywell has also fully funded six PhD studentships to aid the research at the University of Southampton’s laboratories.


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