National Academies of Science report reinforces the need to optimize research and development in catalysis technologies

In March 2016, the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) conducted a workshop to better understand how changes in the availability and use of natural gas and natural gas liquids resulting from the rise in U.S. shale gas production can motivate research investment in new catalysis technologies and processes. Catalysts are added substances that enable more efficient conversion of hydrocarbon feedstocks, or raw materials, into higher-value chemical products. Catalysts also have the added benefit of reducing CO2 emissions by lowering energy demand in the chemical conversion process.

Key discoveries in the field of catalysis have shaped our modern world – from the Haber-Bosch process that facilitated the increased production of synthetic fertilizer to the invention of Ziegler–Natta and Phillips polyolefin catalysts. Polyolefins are everywhere, from socks to reusable food storage containers to secure currency.

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The potential of catalysis is largely untapped. Achieving key breakthroughs in our current understanding of fundamental catalytic processes and engineering could yield next-generation sustainable chemical methods and processes for broad industrial use and application. With this in mind, the goal of the NAS workshop was to identify gaps in current research related to catalytic design and engineering and provide recommendations on how the research community and U.S. funding agencies can target efforts on the most important advances in catalysis.

The NAS workshop report notes that “game-changing” advances in catalytic processes and technologies for the benefit of society can be achieved, but only through a concerted and coordinated effort between industry, academia, and the government. A sustained, interdisciplinary, cross-cutting effort is needed to truly advance fundamental breakthroughs in catalysis. The NAS workshop summary report can be found here.

Here, ACC lays out the 4 steps need to fully realize all of catalysis’s broad-reaching benefits:

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To learn more about ACC’s efforts on catalysis, please click here.

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