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Model of the structure of a metal-free catalyst

PI: Simon Aldridge

Department: Chemistry

EPSRC-funded research has generated a new class of environmentally-friendly catalyst which functions without the use of the toxic, expensive and increasingly scarce ‘precious’ metals that form part of many industrial catalysts. These alternative systems are effective in commercial applications, catalysing a range of reactions critical to fine chemical synthesis. In addition, several systems can also be employed as the active component in molecular sensors.

These metal-free catalysts feature a modular design, and existing research has provided laboratory-scale synthetic routes to a range of prototypes with application-tailored functionality. A patent application has been filed that claims composition of matter and applications in catalysis/sensing.

The catalytic activity of these systems is of commercial interest: an industrial partner would like to make them available to purchase from their catalogue. However, their manufacture at scale is problematic, due to the use of an explosively unstable intermediate. While this problem can easily be circumvented on a laboratory scale, it represents an unacceptable risk for commercial production. This barrier to application was identified by the partner during discussions with the PI, and must be overcome before investment in catalyst commercialization can continue.

From a chemistry perspective, closely related analogues of the current systems have been identified that can be made via a minor modification, without the use of the explosive intermediate. The proposed development work would provide a scalable route to modified metal-free catalysts that can be manufactured safely at scale by our commercial partner.

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