The European Commission has awarded €4m to support carbon-based catalysis research. It is hoped that advancements in the field of metal-free catalysis will alleviate Europe’s reliance on precious metal catalysts. Metal-based catalysis is a major consumer of precious metals such as platinum. However, as there is no natural abundance of platinum group metals within Europe, metal-free catalysis would lead to a dramatic reduction in demand for imported materials and thus help the continent’s process industry to maintain its competitiveness.
FREECATS (Doped carbon nanostructures as metal-free catalysts) involves nine European research institutions and technology enterprises. Professor Alexei Lapkin, from the School of Engineering at Warwick, will lead a team working specifically on experimental and computational investigation of hydrodynamics and heat transfer in structured catalyst supports; namely ceramic foams, including investigation of catalytic reactions on nano-carbon catalysts on foam supports.
Catalysis involves oxidization or mineralization of organic compounds in water into harmless substances. The method is effective for removing solvents, bacteria, chemicals or fertilizers in industrial and agricultural waste water. Currently, metal-based catalysts are used in fuel cells to facilitate electricity generation, producers of polyolefin materials use platinum-based catalysts to convert propane and ethane into light olefins, and organic compounds in water can be rendered harmless by means of traditional catalysis methods. The team contends that through the development of carbon-based catalysis capabilities, all three processes can be made less costly and more environmentally friendly.
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