Catalysis for the Circular Economy & Sustainable Manufacturing

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A traditional linear approach to production and consumption (take, make, dispose) is unsustainable. New circular approaches (make, use, return) are growing in influence and importance with global economic growth and urbanisation. Advances in catalysis central to the circular concept of “keeping the molecules in play”. Using waste CO2, plastics recycle/reuse, bio-based resources, non toxic and abundant additives, and elimination of waste from processes all rely on new catalytic science.

Within industry, closed-loop, circular value chains and sustainable manufacturing are increasingly recognised as vital to future innovation and growth. So far, technical aspects of the Circular Economy have lagged behind the political capital. This proposal puts UK catalytic science and engineering at the centre of the transition to a Circular Economy. This then will use the application of catalysis in developing circular and sustainable molecules, materials and processes across chemicals and chemistry-using industries. In particular, the seven work packages outlined below aim to provide catalytic solutions that will (in the words of Dow Chemical’s Chief Sustainability Officer) “keep the molecules in play”. In order to realise the circular economy, more sustainable manufacturing processes are required and there is an imperative need to develop new catalysts and catalytic processes across a diverse range of the chemicals, materials and pharmaceuticals supply chains.

The program focuses on the following areas:

  • New cooperative catalysts for C-C bond forming reactions from CO2;
  • Activation of C-O bonds for valorisation of bio-derived feedstocks;
  • Using and understanding sustainable catalytic oxidation processes in flow;
  • Earth-abundant metals in resource efficient catalysis;
  • Keeping platform molecules in play: catalytic chemical recycling of polymers;
  • New sustainable polymer architectures for high performance plastics;
  • Optimising bio-based platform molecules: establishing diformyl furan as a bio-based platform for polymers

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