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Dr Catherine Cazin

Greener, cheaper, more efficient: improving production through cutting-edge catalysts

From pharmaceuticals to fragrances, dyes to agrochemicals, many products require catalysts in their manufacture. Many catalysts are expensive, require large quantities and high temperatures to work properly, and leave toxic residues in the final product. The result is inefficient production and higher costs for producers and consumers.

Dr Cazin specialises in the discovery of new catalysts that need less energy to activate, are greener and generate less waste and residue.

One of her catalysts - based on the metal ruthenium (Ru) - activates a reaction widely used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals. For health and safety reasons, there are strict rules on how much metal catalyst residue is allowed in the end product, making additional cleaning and purification necessary. But this step might no longer be required, as Dr Cazin explains:

“It is extremely important to develop very active catalysts that lead to metal contamination that follow regulatory guidelines. We invent catalysts for pharma that are active at ppm levels and make costly purification and metal retrieval unnecessary.”

The same catalyst was also shown to be exceptionally useful in several industrial applications, especially for producing body panels of vehicles. It was quickly licenced for production and is now commercially available through chemicals giants such as Umicore, Aldrich and Strem Chemicals.

Industry has great interest in obtaining alternative products in the supply chain, and large multinationals such as AstraZeneca and Syngenta support Dr Cazin’s research through industrial CASE (Cooperative Awards in Science and Technology) studentships. This initiative offers an excellent opportunity for industry to learn about the latest academic research while training the next generation of industrial researchers.

In the future, Dr Cazin plans to continue her cutting edge research into industrial catalysts. She has been recognised as a Rising Star Speaker in the 41st International Conference on Coordination Chemistry in Singapore and through the Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane Medal (Royal Society of Edinburgh) in 2014.