CSCP Research News
Andy Whiting and Mark Fox, in collaboration with co-workers in Rennes, reported a novel route to N-arylpyridines from boronodienes and arylnitroso compounds in a Chem. Commun. article. Animations on the steps involved in the reaction mechanism can be viewed with the powerpoint file, Tripoteau.ppt.
The University together with Dr John Birtill - supported by Andy Whiting, the RSC’s Applied Catalysis Group and the SURCAT Group - organised and hosted a commemorative symposium “Catalysis – from fundamentals to application” for the late Dennis Dowden who was a distinguished senior scientist for many years at ICI Billingham. The meeting was sponsored by Johnson Matthey. This successful event attracted around 120 delegates from both academia and industry with 15 talks covering a wide spectrum of industrially-orientated catalysis, including talks from Martyn Twigg (CSCP advisory board) “Dennis A Dowden – An appreciation of a life in catalysis” and from Martin Hanton (PWD’s first PhD student now working with Sasol Technology UK) titled “Selective ethylene tetramerisation 2003-2013 – from discovery to commercialisation”. James took the opportunity to again present some of his work at the poster session on the first evening: “Catalysis using PNE Complexes of Group VI Metals”.
Jack Rowbotham (PWD and HCG) attended the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Thermal Methods group, Thermal Analysis Conference TAC 2013, held at the University of Greenwich and presented a poster detailing some of his recent working on understanding the thermolysis of seaweed-derived sugars and the key roles played by metals. Jack also attended the group’s short course on Thermal Analysis Techniques – An Overview. This provided a comprehensive overview of the main thermal analysis techniques including DSC, TG, TMA, DMA and evolved gas analysis and their industrial applications.
Professor Michael K Theodorou awarded Visiting Chair
Prof. Mike Theodorou has recently been awarded a visiting chair in the Chemistry Department at Durham University in conjunction with the Department's Centre for Sustainable Chemical Processes (CSCP).
Mike is recognised internationally for his pioneering studies on gut anaerobic fungi and the role of plant biomass, including high sugar grasses, in rumen function and in a number of collaborative projects, has developed and patented continuous culture technologies for microbial cell growth and biogas production - converting organic waste and biomass into gaseous biofuel.
Mike holds a PhD in Biochemical Plant Pathology from Imperial College London and a BSc in Microbiology from the University of London. His career in strategic and applied research is in the area of anaerobic microbiology/microbial ecology and includes 12 years as department head at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER), Aberystwyth, and as head of Science Development at Aberystwyth University. More recently, Mike spent 2 years in Biological and Biomedical Science at Durham as a Visiting Professor in Industrial Biotechnology. This post was part-sponsored by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI); a Technology Strategy Board Catapult Centre. He is currently collaborating with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and theUniversity of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) on a project aimed at the industrial exploitation of the gut fungi. Simultaneously, Mike is currently employed as a consultant by the Technology Strategy Board where he is engaged in contributing to the commercialisation of novel, advanced manufacturing technology in the food/feed industry and in recommending technical and scientific inputs to science-based business.
With colleagues at Durham and Silage Solutions Ltd, Mike recently developed a novel, patented process for macroalgae preservation. This process enables macroalgae to be stored for considerable periods (more than a year) without noticeable deterioration making the preserved algal biomass an innovative, sustainable source to permit continuity of supply as an intermediate energy carrier for biofuel production. In 2013, the Chemistry Department was awarded £2.4 M by the EPSRC for a 5-year collaborative project (MacroBioCrude) to exploit Mike’s macroalgae preservation process. The project is led by Phil Dyer in Chemistry and sets out to demonstrate an ambitious, industrially viable, novel, integrated and economic supply and processing pipeline for year-round sustained production of fuel-specification hydrocarbons (drop-in replacement diesel and aviation kerosene) from preserved macroalgae and to investigate societal, and industry acceptability of the proposed chain.
Jack Rowbotham, Li Li and PWD attended the international SubiCat meeting “Sustainable Catalytic Conversions of Renewable Substrates” held in St. Andrews. Both Jack and Li Li presented some aspects of their research work with posters entitled “Seaweed and sustainability: exploring the catalytic pyrolysis of macroalgae as a route to renewable fuels and chemicals” and “Sustainable Bio-Derived Ketones via Heterogeneous Catalysed Fatty Acid Deoxygenation Reactions”, respectively. In an invited talk, PWD presented some of the work carried out jointly with Chris Greenwell (HCG)’s group in the areas of heterogeneously-catalysed ketonic decarboxylation and trans-esterification “Moulding biomass with clays and mixed metal oxides”.
Dr Chris Greenwell has been awarded a Royal Society Industry Fellowship to understand how clay minerals and clay mineral/other mineral interfaces hydrate during drilling and fracking operations. The Fellowship will last for 4 years and Chris will spend 50% of his time working with M-I SWACO (Schlumberger) on the project, making use of the world class Aberdeen Research & Technology Centre.
Congratulations to Simon Beaumont was awarded EPSRC support for his ‘CataRaman’ project under the EPSRC First Grant scheme. The project will be focused on exploiting Total Internal Reflection (TIR) Raman spectroscopy for in situ studies of heterogeneous catalysis. This methodology, which offers a number of advantages over current alternatives, will be exploited for the first time to study reactive adsorbates under true operating conditions on specially prepared, well defined nanoparticle catalysts.
Congratulations to Graham Sandford who was elected Chair of RSC Fluorine Chemistry Group (2013-17). This appointment was highlighted in the German magazine ‘Spektrum’.
Graham was also guest editor for a special issue of J. Fluorine Chem. (Editorial, November 2012)
Jack attended the RSC Energy & Environment - Early Career Researcher Symposium, at Cranfield University, where he won 2nd prize in the meeting's poster session. His poster, entitled "Seaweed and Sustainability: Biofuels from the Catalytic Pyrolysis of Macroalgae", describes Jack's recent work exploring fundamental aspects of the pyrolysis of macroalgae - a methodology that could be used to generate fuels and chemicals from this sustainable bioresource.
This study includes a thorough kinetic analysis of the thermochemistry of real macroalgal samples together with that of model compounds such as alginic acid. Importantly, Jack's work highlights the significant impact of metals in these types of thermochemical process, something extremely important since macroalgae naturally bioaccumulate metal ions to concentrations many thousands of times higher than their surroundings. Jack has demonstrated that the presence of these metals dramatically affects the the kinetics of their pyrolysis and has shown that different metal ions impact quite differently. Again, Jack has supported this study with investigations of the thermochemistry of a range of metal alginate salts. Together these results highlight the potential for undertaking catalytic pyrolysis of seaweed to generate useful, up-graded commodity chemicals in a concise reaction slate. Further details of Jack's work in this area will appear in a special edition of Journal of the Royal Society Interface, later this year:
"Copper(II)–mediated thermolysis of alginates: A model kinetic study on the influence of metal ions in the thermochemical processing of macroalgae",
J. S. Rowbotham, P. W. Dyer, H. C. Greenwell, D. Selby, M. K. Theodorou, Interface Focus, 2013, 3; doi:10.1098/rsfs.2012.0046
This is great result for Jack - coming as the third presentation prize he has won at a national meeting this year!
The MacroBioCrude consortium lead by Phil Dyer (Centre for Sustainable Chemical Processes, Durham Chemistry, and Royal Society Industry Fellow) supported by Mike Theodorou has received EPSRC funding (£1.6M) to support a cross-discipline project to establish an integrated supply and processing pipeline for the sustainable manufacture of liquid hydrocarbon fuels from seaweed (or macroalgae).<span >MacroBioCrude brings together both researchers from five universities, Durham (Chris Greenwell - Earth Sciences; Victoria Wells - Business School), Aberystwyth (Joe Gallagher - Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Studies), Swansea (Robin Shields - Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Research), Greenwhich (Pat Harvey, Bioenergy/Life Sciences) and Highlands and Islands (Alan Bourhill - Marine Science and Technology), as well as industrial partners Johnson Matthey Catalysts, Davy Process Technology, Silage Solutions Ltd, Shell, CPI and CPI/Tata Steel. The team will explore methods of seaweed gasification and upgrading to diesel and aviation kerosene employing a novel biomass preservation technology developed by members of the consortium. In parallel, they will establish an innovation platform for this novel bio-fuel supply chain, which assesses the overall process footprint, supply chain relationships and public/end-user perceptions. Seaweed makes an ideal sustainable feedstock to contribute to the manufacture of high energy density liquid transport fuels since it does not compete with foodcrops for land or water, has a rapid growth cycle combined with a high solar efficiency (~3 times greater than terrestrial biomass), and can be grown alongside other water-based activities such as off-shore wind farms and fish farms.The consortium was initially formed via the IAS Biofuels, Science and Society theme and is a great example of Durham interdisciplinary work and the role the IAS can play in stimulating this.
For more information on the successful EPSRC grant see http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2013/Pages/newresearch.aspx
More information on using seaweed as a sustainable feedstock can be found in a recent article "Thermochemical processing of macroalgae: a late bloomer in the development of third-generation biofuels?" by Phil Dyer, Chris Greenwell, Mike Theodorou and Jack Rowbotham at http://www.future-science.com/doi/abs/10.4155/bfs.12.29
Dr Chris Greenwell gave an invited talk, "Deoxygenation Reactions in Biomass Conversion" to the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado on Friday 30th September. The talk was very well received and Dr Greenwell stayed on for a briefing by the Bioenergy Programme Manager to NREL on the current status and prospects for bioenergy.
In a collaborative research group effort involving undergraduate project students, PhD students and postdocs, Luke Tuxworth, Lise Baiget, Andreas Phanopoulos, Owen Metters, and Phil Dyer publish a paper in Chem. Commun. “Phosphine–alkene ligand-mediated alkyl–alkyl and alkyl–halide elimination processes from palladium(II)” describing their work in the area of ‘responsive’ ligands. This article can be found at: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2012/CC/C2CC35623F
Antonis Messinis, currently in the final year of his PhD working in Phil Dyer’s group on a Sasol UK funded project, presented a poster on aspects of his research entitled “Exploring Aspects of Tungsten-Initiated Olefin Dimerisation” at the XXV International Conference on Organometallic Chemistry Conference (ICOMC) in Lisbon, Portugal.
Phil Dyer’s group also took part in this year’s Royal Society of Chemistry Dalton Division Main Group Chemistry meeting held at Burlington House in London. Phil gave an invited lecture titled “Exploring the thermal behaviour and catalytic performance of main group synthetic clays and mixed metal oxides”, describing work his group are undertaking in collaboration with Chris Greenwell and Johnson Matthey. Luke Tuxworth (2nd year PhD student) also presented a snapshot of some of his on-going research in a poster describing “Phosphine-alkene ligand-mediated alkyl-alkyl and alkyl-halide elimination processes from palladium(II)”. After the meeting they managed to find time for a “few” beers and some very “tasty” sandwiches.
CSCP welcomes Prof. Ian Baxendale to Durham Chemistry and CSCP! Ian’s research interests include organic synthesis (natural products, heterocyclic and medicinal chemistry), organometallic chemistry, catalyst design and application, meso flow chemistry, microfluidics, microwave-assisted synthesis, solid supported reagents and scavengers, and facilitated reaction optimisation using robotics and automation.
Dr Li Li and Jack Rowbotham working jointly between the groups of Phil Dyer and Chris Greenwell publish a book chapter “An Introduction to Pyrolysis and Catalytic Pyrolysis: Versatile Techniques for Biomass Conversion”, which will appear in early 2013.
Andy Whiting and collaborators won a £897k award from the TSB. The 3 year project involves AkzoNobel, High Force Research, and Manchester University, and is aimed at investigating novel routes for the manufacture of waterborne polymers for coating applications. The major thrust of the project is the replacement of solvents and the use of more efficient continuous manufacturing processes to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gases, thereby making coating manufacturing more sustainable.
In a major development it has been announced that Durham University has awarded £1.1M to CSCP to establish a new dedicated Integrated Chemical Reaction Facility (ICRF) within Durham’s Chemistry Department. The unique facility will provide academic and industrial researchers access to complex chemical process reactor systems and associated analytical instruments enabling unique high pressure, flow and parallel reactions supported by the provision of analytical instrumentation and process control systems. The ICRF will enhance and promote on-going research in homo- and hetero-genous catalysis, fluorine, flow, parallel and sustainable chemistries and will provide the capability for research in CO2 geochemistry, coal gasification, polymer pyrrolysis, biofuel synthesis, all with an emphasis upon engendering energy-efficient processes design and implementation.
The next NORSC research day event will show case the expansion of this research network to include researchers from the Universities of Hull, Huddersfield, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. This event will take place on Wednesday 17th October at Kings Manor in York. It will provide an opportunity for each university to give a general presentation of their core research themes, areas for future collaboration and research directions. The programme will include talks from both research group leaders and PhD students, and a poster session.
Jack Rowbotham, Phil Dyer, Chris Greenwell and Mike Theodorou have jointly published a perspective article in the journal Biofuels, entitled “Thermochemical processing of macroalgae: a late bloomer in the development of third-generation biofuels?”. The paper offers a critical overview of the recent developments in thermochemical processing of macroalgae, a field that has been comparatively neglected when viewed against the vast wealth of research into alternative biofuel production methods and feedstocks. However, advances in thermochemical techniques have led to a flurry of activity into the applicability and use of macroalgae. Recent research has demonstrated that macroalgae may be used to produce bioresources in a similar way to many conventional terrestrial feedstocks and, indeed, may also possess a number of advantages (notably by not competing for land that could be used for food and forestry, nor requiring extensive use of nitrogenous fertilizers). With this in mind, it is suggested that many of the criticisms that have led to previous disinterest in thermal processing of macroalgae are not valid. Nevertheless, only through the continuation of these recent endeavors can macroalgal biomass, via broader and successively larger scale experimentation, demonstrate itself to be a competitive source of renewable energy. The full article can be found at: http://www.future-science.com/toc/bfs/3/4.
Andy Whiting and Chris Greenwell have jointly been awarded two METRC grants to work on collaborative ‘kick-off’ projects with Sun Chemicals on VOC-free crosslinked coatings, and on clay-nanocomposite barrier coatings. Chris has also been awarded a further METRC grant to work in collaboration with Dr Dave Davis (Silage Solutions Ltd) in order to undertake analysis of macroalgae carbohydrates as function of preservation methodology! This latter work will be undertaken by Catherine Ainsworth, recently graduated from Cambridge University.
Prof. Alois Fürstner (Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung) gave this year’s Musgrave Lecture entitled “Catalysis for total synthesis”. This formed part of an exciting half-day mini-symposium with accompanying lectures being presented by CSCP’s AnnMarie O’Donoghue and Dr Paul Davies (Birmingham).
This year the Chemistry Department in Durham was represented at the Science Faculty Rising Stars symposium (http://www.dur.ac.uk/science.faculty/symposium/) by Owen Metters who gave an excellent talk entitled “It’s Make or Break for the Chemical Bon”, which described research work he undertook during his final year M.Chem. research project with Phil Dyer and his group. Owen described his work surrounding the synthesis, coordination chemistry, and potential catalytic application of innovate bidentate phosphine-alkene ligands and how this unusual electronic asymmetry facilities key reductive elimination processes. Owen also presented this work at this year’s SCI Young Chemists Symposium held in Durham Chemistry.
David Hodgson has been invited to talk at XX IRT – the 20th International Roundtable on Nucleosides, Nucleotides and Nucleic Acids in Montreal (5-9 August 2012). Almost 100 "oral" category abstracts were received, but only 15 were selected by the programme committee. Additionally, David has been awarded an RSC Journals Grants for International Authors bursary to enable him to set up a collaboration with Dr Subha R. Das at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The work will focus on new strategies for RNA ligation.
Research undertaken Richard Delley, a 3rd year PhD student working with AnnMarie O'Donoghue and David Hodgson, on the hydrolysis of reactive phosphorus(V) chlorides has just been published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jo300808m. The work shows that phosphodichloridate and thiophosphodichloridate ions both show a remarkable lack of reactivity towards hydroxide ions thus they can be used under conditions of relatively high pH without adverse effects.
New Research Initiative
CompactGTL together with Durham University's EPSRC KTS programme have recently announced a collaborative research project lead by Phil Dyer to explore fundamental aspects of the operation of heterogeneous Fischer-Tropsch catalysts.
Inaugural NORSC-NEPIC Innovation Day
The first of what is hoped to be an annual meeting organised by NEPIC was held on the 24th April at Ramside Hall Hotel (Durham), which successfully brought together around 60 participants including researchers from Leeds, York, Newcastle, and Durham Universities, who are all active participants of the NORSC (Northern Sustainable Chemistry) cluster, alongside with industrialists from a range of companies and organisations. The aim of the event was to showcase the breadth of technical and scientific progress that is being made in sustainable technologies at these Northern Universities and the capabilities that exist, collectively, to support regional technology needs in the areas of sustainable chemical businesses and processes, with a view to developing and delivering a lower carbon future. Copies of all the presentations given will be available soon via the NEPIC web site; the presentation overviewing the activities and capabilities of Durham Chemistry's CSCP may be found here.