Catalysis and Ionic Liquids
We have strong research interests in catalysis and ionic liquids. Current catalytic projects range from water gas shift and emission control catalysis using thermal and plasma activation to the use of transients to determine gas and liquid phase reaction mechanisms to liquid phase hydrogenations under batch and flow conditions to low temperature fuel cells and clean energy conversion. In addition, our research in ionic liquids includes their use in modifying the properties of heterogeneous catalysts, structural determination of ionic liquids, and species dissolved therein, electrochemistry and prediction of physical properties of ionic liquids. In both aspects of the research, the group has developed a number of state-of-the-art techniques both within the University as well as using synchrotron and neutron central facilities. Much of the work is collaborative and industrially related involving a combination of modelling and experimental studies.
Our group is also strongly involved in the EPSRC funded UK Catalysis Hub as well as the 4CU project on carbon capture and utilisation.
Structure of Materials
It is not only important to study the reactive chemistry of catalysts but also understand their adsorption/electronic/structural properties as well. In many cases the structure of the catalyst surface for example has at least as great effect on the reaction as the specific chemical composition of the material. Our research investigates how the material properties change the reactivity. The adsorption/electronic properties are investigated using a range of techniques including infra-red, UV-vis, XPS and thermal desorption spectroscopies. Much of the structural investigations involve the use of synchrotron radiation. We have concentrated on the use of EXAFS to investigate the local structure of a variety of materials both in-situ transformations in a reactive medium and ex-situ. Many of the experiments require the designing and building of in-situ reaction cells and we have developed a new cell for the study of ionic liquids using EXAFS. Studies have been performed on conducting polymers, adsorbed aqueous organic and metal species on hydroxide surfaces, catalysts and organometallic compounds. For example, using a combination of EXAFS, XRD and TEM we have been able to show that large nanoclusters of gold are dispersed using haloalkanes during the carbonylation of methanol leading to the possibility of redispersing supported gold based catalysts for the first time.
Methanol carbonylation activity (top) and gold dispersion (bottom) with haloalkanes. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 50 (2011) 8912-8916; Journal of the American Chemical Society, 131 (2009) 6973.