David Kirkpatrick

September 21, 2008

Nanoscale chemical reactors

From the release:

19 September 2008

Introducing the next generation of chemical reactors

Unique nanostructures which respond to stimuli, such as pH, heat and light will pave the way for safer, greener and more efficient chemical reactors.

Being developed by a consortium of UK universities, the nanostructures can regulate reactions, momentum, and heat and mass transfer inside chemical reactors. This technology will provide a step change in reactor technology for the chemical, pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries.

Professor Yulong Ding of the Institute of Particle Science and Engineering at the University of Leeds explains: “This research programme is an important step towards producing the next generation of smart “small footprint”, greener reactors. The responsive reaction systems we are investigating could make the measurement systems currently used in reactors redundant.”

The technique is being developed through a collaborative research programme initiated by Professor Ding together with Dr Alexei Lapkin at the University of Bath, and Professor Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow.

The programme involves designing and producing molecular metal oxides and polymers as building blocks, and engineering those blocks to form nanoscale structures, which are responsive to internal and / or external stimuli such as pH, heat or light. The structures can be dispersed in fluid, or coated on the reactor walls.

As conditions inside the reactor change, the nanostructured particles will respond by changing their size, shape, or structure. These changes could in turn alter transport properties such as thermal conductivity and viscosity, and catalyst activity – and hence regulate the reactions.

Professor Ding also believes that these systems also have the potential to eliminate the risk of ‘runaway’, where a chemical reaction goes out of control.

The three-year programme, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), brings together leading experts in the fields of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Particle Science & Engineering.

Notes for editors:

1. The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds comprises five Schools:

Civil Engineering; Computing; Electronic and Electrical Engineering; Mechanical Engineering and Process, Materials and Environmental Engineering. All schools in the Faculty have the highest 5 or 5* Research Assessment Exercise ratings, top teaching assessments and strong industrial connections. There are approximately 3,000 students in the Faculty, 80% undergraduates and 20% postgraduates. Two-thirds of our students are from the UK with the remainder representing over 90 different nationalities.

2. The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK with more than 30,000 students from 130 countries. With a total annual income of £422m, Leeds is one of the top ten research universities in the UK, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. It was recently placed 80th in the Times Higher Educational Supplement’s world universities league table and the University’s vision is to secure a place among the world’s top 50 by 2015.

3. Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is one of the top 100 universities in the world with an international reputation for its research and teaching and an important role in the cultural and commercial life of the country. The University is a major research powerhouse, with annual research contract income in the top ten of UK universities. An exceptional 96 per cent of its research-active staff are in areas which have been independently assessed as producing research of international importance.

4. The University of Bath is one of the UK’s leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching.

View a full list of the University’s press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/pr/releases

5. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. www.epsrc.ac.uk/

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