“The need to reduce waste is one of the major challenges our society faces in the 21st Century. Whilst renewable and cleaner energy sources may provide part of the solution, we must also find ways to be more efficient during the manufacture of chemical products used in our everyday lives. Chemical waste is bad for our environment, and we currently do not have a good way to dispose of it. Reducing the waste produced from chemical manufacturing will also reduce the cost of the products themselves, making it easier for developing nations to gain access to much-needed things like medicines.
One way to achieve greater efficiency in chemical manufacturing is through accelerating the process with catalysts, which speed up chemical reactions but are not themselves consumed by the overall process. However, catalysts may also speed up undesirable side reactions to give byproducts that contaminate the required product. My research aims to increase the selectivity of catalysts which will decrease waste products by reducing the number of ways the reacting molecules can approach the catalyst. This means that the catalyst itself can be separated after the chemical reaction has been completed, and will not corrupt the end product.
My aim is that this will use minimal energy, produce minimal waste, and be easily recycled. Therefore less energy, time and money will be required to separate the waste from the desired material, leading to more economic and environmentally sustainable processes.”