CBI member Cardiff University announced that a novel catalyst discovered by experts from Cardiff University had been successfully commercialised by a U.K. chemicals company. Scientists describe the catalyst, which is derived from gold, as having the potential to save lives, improve health, and clean up the environment.
Their research shows that it has an unparalleled ability to speed up many reactions and make products cheaper, cleaner, safer, and more sustainable. The gold catalyst is being manufactured by Johnson Matthey at a purposely built factory in Shanghai in order to make vast quantities of vinyl chloride (VCM) – the main ingredient of PVC.
It is the first time in over 50 years that a complete overhaul in catalyst formulation has been implemented for the production of any commodity chemical. The remarkable ability of gold to speed up reactions was first discovered by Professor Graham Hutchings and his team at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI).
The team’s research identified that gold could be an ideal material to facilitate the production of VCM, which since the 1950s has been produced using a mercury catalyst. Not only is mercury extremely harmful to the environment, the World Health Organisation has identified the chemical as posing a serious threat to human health.
Since this discovery, the CCI has worked closely with Johnson Matthey, which has trialled the gold catalyst in a pilot plant and reactors in China, and a full-scale factory is now in place to produce hundreds of tonnes of gold catalyst for the production of VCM.
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