University and industry leaders create new catalyst lab

Published: 24 July 2001

The University has teamed up with the science company Synetix to create a state of the art laboratory dedicated to major advances in the manufacture of catalysts.

The University of Glasgow has teamed up with the science company Synetix to create a state of the art laboratory dedicated to major advances in the manufacture of catalysts, the materials used to speed up chemical reactions.

This is the first time Synetix, a member of the ICI Group, has linked up with a university to create a dedicated laboratory. The Teesside-based company provides industry with advanced catalysts as well as application know-how and service technology. The international market for catalysts is worth more than two billion dollars annually.

The Glasgow Catalysis Group in the University's Department of Chemistry already has an international reputation in this field which has vital implications for environmental protection and industrial efficiency.

The £400,000 laboratory has the capability to prepare and characterise nanoscale (extremely small) metal particles that are the active components in catalytic reactions. The laboratory's new test facilities will enable scientists at Glasgow to study multi-phase catalyst systems under industrial conditions of high-pressure and high-temperature for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Synetix strengths in a number of areas have been complemented by work at the University. For example, Synetix's involvement in sulphur reduction to very low levels, has been enhanced by Glasgow's research into ultra purification.

Bob Coxon, chief executive of Synetix, which employs 800 people world-wide, said: "We do have very strong links with universities around the world but this is the very first dedicated Synetix laboratory and I am delighted that it is based in the UK. This type of collaborative research with universities has led to many breakthroughs in catalysis and I am confident that the opening of the Synetix laboratory at Glasgow will result in even more groundbreaking advances."

The laboratory will be headed by Professor David Jackson, a former Synetix scientist. He said: "The placing of this laboratory for catalysis research is a great honour for the Glasgow Catalysis group and recognises the long-standing interaction and close ties between the group and Synetix. It also recognises the ability of the group to deliver the leading edge science needed by Synetix and British industry in the field of catalysis. We are looking forward to new and exciting challenges in our catalysis research."

Catalysts are used in the production of 80% of the output of the chemical industry. Applications range from the control of car exhausts to the production of fine chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. The Government's Technology Foresight Chemicals Panel highlighted catalysis as a top priority for making major contributions to wealth creation and the quality of life by making chemical processes less energy demanding, and minimising the production of waste thus increasing efficiency and protecting the environment.

Eighteen months ago the University's expertise in the field led to the award of a research development grant of just under £1M from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to Professor Geoff Webb to establish a Centre of Metal-based Heterogeneous Catalysis. The project had been recommended for funding under the competitive UK JIF (Joint Infrastructure Fund) programme.

Further information for the media is available at ,p.

Media Relations Office (

For further information contact and photo opportunities:

Mike Brown, University of Glasgow Press Office: 0141 330 3535 or

Sally Jones, Synetix, 01642 522637.

First published: 24 July 2001

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