Thursday, 18 August 2016

A Sustainable Future through Catalysis?

Europe is a leading player in terms of research on catalysis as well in the industrial implementation of catalytic technologies, however this leadership is under threat due to fragmentation of effort, insufficient coordination between European and country-based activities, a declining level of funding for fundamental research in some European countries, and a lack of large-scale infrastructures dedicated to catalysis. Now the European Cluster on Catalysis initiative has published its new Roadmap on Catalysis for Europe report ‘Science and Technology Roadmap on Catalysis for Europe’ that outlines a clear path forward. Catalysis has always been seen as a key chemical technology for SusChem and many SusChem members were closely involved in the development of this report.

This roadmap and the activities of the European Cluster on Catalysis have the ambitious objective to define a new path to create a sustainable future through catalysis. The process is bottom-up as it starts with national roadmaps and inputs from all across Europe and develops a common vision and highlights strategies to reach the challenges facing industry and society in a transitional period to a new economic cycle.

The ‘Science and Technology Roadmap on Catalysis for Europe’ report provides that long term vision and an action plan to support catalysis research in the EU and identifies the key actions that must be undertaken at European level in the next ten years in the field of catalysis.

These are:
  • Identify the best catalyst/process-related opportunities;
  • Accelerate R&D that improves energy efficiency;
  • Facilitate R&D on game changers with partners that lower barriers and operating costs;
  • Undertake or stimulate academic and national laboratory research on large-volume/high-energy use processes;
  • Promote synergies and cohesion between research groups on catalysis through the use of flagship initiatives
Catalysis – a key enabler
Catalysis is one of the key cross-cutting and enabling disciplines for the chemical and other process industries. Catalytic materials are crucial to reducing environmental burdens today and in the future and can help to make products greener and more sustainable, to reduce CO2 emissions and address future energy challenges. The first ‘Science and Technology Roadmap on Catalysis for Europe’ provides valuable input for the elaboration of future research policies in this area.

The report first introduces the vision of the roadmap, based on analysis of a scenario for sustainable production of chemistry and energy vectors and provides some long-term strategic goals. The role and relevance of catalysis is discussed and aspects identified that will dominate the future production of sustainable chemical and energy vectors and other critical areas for catalysis use.

Based on this analysis the report then identifies the grand challenges for catalysis and discusses possible implementation options. These challenges for catalysis, aiming to address societal, environmental and industrial demands, are grouped in three main topic areas:
  • Catalysis to address the evolving energy and chemical scenario
  • Catalysis for a cleaner and sustainable future
  • Addressing catalysis complexity
The following section analyses the strategic research agenda and related implementation action plan for these grand challenges identifying the key aspects, and related challenges and opportunities for catalysis, the main research areas and required outputs.

Catalysis is a key enabling technology for a cleaner and sustainable future, and the report focuses on intensifying research in this areas. Two main directions are identified in the roadmap:
  • Catalysis for eco-technologies, from air to water and waste, to address stationary to mobile; this area includes the aspects of photocatalysis related to depollution
  • Catalysis to improve sustainability of chemical processes, in terms of atom economy and improved processes to produce the main intermediates and chemical products/monomers
The report proposes that to foster innovation in catalysis impact and address the identified societal challenges requires a knowledge-based approach and enhanced capabilities in four main areas:
  • Advanced design of novel catalysts
  • Understanding catalysts from molecular to material scale
  • Expanding process concepts including catalysis
  • A scientific approach to link advanced design to catalyst scale-up and manufacturing
You can download the full report here.

More information
The European Cluster on Catalysis initiative was launched by the European Commission and brings together a number of SusChem inspired and EU-funded projects in the field of catalysis with research organisations and academic institutions as well as industrial and other relevant European stakeholders in the field. For the cluster the term catalysis encompasses many ‘flavours’ of catalysis including heterogeneous, homogeneous, photocatalysis, electrocatalysis, and biocatalysis together with corresponding chemical technologies such as CO2utilisation, artificial photosynthesis, biogenic materials, and water technologies.

For more information on SusChem initiatives in the field of catalysis contact Martin Winter at Cefic.

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