Sustainable Biomass Conversions by Highly Efficient Catalytic Processes

As part of the SuBiCat network, all Marie Curie fellows meet every year to attend an interdisciplinary workshop. These workshops are composed of presentations on various topics and aim to broaden the scientific knowledge of each fellow. These presentations give the fellows the tools to become better researchers and can potentially lead to new interdisciplinary collaborations projects. Each year experts from outside the SuBiCat network are invited to discuss their research. The meetings thus give us the possibility to broaden our scientific network. After these workshops, the speakers provided their lectures, which were made available to the fellows via the SuBiCat website. Each of these meetings was also followed by an online tutorial to assess the knowledge gained by every fellow.

Introducing lectures

Workshop abstracts SuBiCat Midterm meeting 24-Aug-2015

Nanoparticles in Catalysis

Dr. M. Sanker

Dr. M. Sankar is a University Research Fellow & Independent Group Leader in the Cardiff Catalysis Institute at Cardiff University. He received his BSc and MSc degrees in Chemistry from India. After securing the prestigious CSIR Fellowship for PhD, he moved to the National Chemical Laboratory and worked with Dr. P. Manikandan. The research topic for his PhD thesis was "Developing Heterogeneous Catalysts for the Synthesis of Organic Carbonates using CO2". Then he moved to Cardiff University as a PDRA and worked with Prof. Graham Hutchings FRS in developing supported bimetallic catalysts for the selective oxidation of alcohols and a fundamental understanding of this catalytic process. In 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship for Career Development to work with Prof. Bert M. Weckhuysen at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. During this fellowship he developed supported bimetallic catalysts for the valorisation of biorenewable feedstock. In 2014, sankar was awarded the Chancellor's Research Fellowship by Cardiff University to start an independent group in the area of "Developing Catalysts for the Valorisation of Unconventional Feedstock for the Production of Chemicals and Fuels". Sankar has co authored 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals and is the co-inventor of 2 patents (published & submitted)

Fellowships & Award

  • Junior & Senior Research Fellowships (2002), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India.
  • Lectureship (2001), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India.
  • Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship for Career Development (2011), Research Executive Agency, FP-7.
  • Honorary Research Associate (2011-2014), Cardiff University, UK.
  • Chancellor's Research Fellowship (2014), Cardiff University, UK.


In this lecture, I will give an overview of the recent developments in the strategies to synthesize supported gold- based bimetallic nanoparticle catalysts. The catalytic efficiency of these supported bimetallic nanoparticles, similar to monometallic nanoparticles, depends on their structural characteristics, but with added complexities because of the presence of the second metal. I will discuss three major structural features of supported bimetallic nanoparticles, namely (a) size, (b) composition and (c) nanostructure, all of which play a crucial role in the resulting overall catalytic performances of the materials. A specific objective of this lecture is to motivate researchers to characterize these supported nanoparticles more thoroughly to investigate their structural features in detail and based on this knowledge design suitable and innovative synthesis strategies to control these properties.


  • P. Paalanen, B. M. Weckhuysen, M. Sankar, Catal. Sci. Technol., 2013, 3, 2869–2880.
  • G. J. Hutchings and C. J. Kiely, Acc. Chem. Res., 2013, 46 (8), pp 1759–1772.
  • M. Sankar, Q. He, M. Morad, J. Pritchard, S. J. Freakley, J. K. Edwards, S. H. Taylor, D. J. Morgan, A. F. Carley, D. W. Knight, C. J. Kiely, G. J. Hutchings, ACS Nano 2012, 6, 6600– 6613

Aromatic Bioconversions

Willem van Berkel

Prof. van Berkel developed the topic of aromatic bioconversion focusing on enzymatic conversion of lignin-derived aromatics to high-value added building blocks. He highlighted the importance of enzymes for the oxidation of various molecules and explained that the enzymes can be highly regio- and chemoselective catalysts. Finally, he demonstrated how these enzymes can be used for the production of vanillin.

Presentation Skills

Lynn Neville

Abstract: This session will present some ideas to help with the creation and delivery of a presentation in a variety of settings. The objectives are for participants to:

  • Have some clear ideas about what makes good presentations
  • Appreciate the importance and value of structure in presentations
  • Be able to apply some simple guidelines on using visual aids

Lynn Neville:
Lynn is a graduate of the University of St Andrews with a background in Financial Services. Currently working as a Staff Developer with responsibility for the training of Professional Staff, Lynn designs and delivers successful development programmes including the Passport to Management Excellence and won the Individual Contribution Award 2015 from the AUA (Association of University Administrators).

The development of a new industrial process for a commodity chemical

Bob Tooze

After obtaining a BSc and PhD in Chemistry from Imperial College London (the latter under the supervision of Nobel Laureate professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson), Bob joined ICI and has subsequently worked in the chemical industry for nearly 30 years. This career has spanned various businesses and locations but always in R&D. He joined Sasol Technology UK (STUK) in 2002 as Research Director and was made Managing Director in 2004. He has established an international Research group responsible for medium and long term research in catalysis, materials science and computational chemistry. For several years he was a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC), Scotland’s highest level science advisory body, he is currently Chair of Chemical Sciences Scotland and a member of the Scottish Industrial Biotechnology Development Group. He has wide experience of collaborative research both nationally and internationally. He was Chairman of the Industrial Board of IdeCat, an integrated Network of Excellence comprising of 40 of the leading Catalysis Laboratories in Europe. He sits on various University Advisory Boards (Bristol, Bath and Durham) and is also currently Chairman of the Industrial Advisory Panel of the UK Catalysis Hub, a new £15m initiative supported by the EPSRC. Bob holds an honorary Professorship in Chemistry at the University of St Andrews giving lecture courses in the field of catalysis. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2013.


The discovery, development and commercialisation of a new process for the production of a commodity chemical is a long-term, expensive and therefore strategic decision for any Company. This lecture will try to set out the drivers and barriers to implementing new technology and set out the decision making process used to arrive at the optimum solution. It will be illustrated by a real life example, which has novel chemical catalysis at its heart.

Catalyst Separation/Catalyst Immobilisation

Ian Baxendale

How Flow Chemistry Can Be Of Use In Synthesis

Synthetic chemistry is the complex art, science and craft of molecular assembly. As a discipline it has undergone many significant changes over the past centuries as our understanding of the fundamentals of bond forming and breaking including how to exert control over these processes has been refined. Throughout this time the basic approach and apparatus available to the experimentalist has remained relatively constant with the occurrence of test tubes, flasks and beakers being historically synonymous with chemistry. This is still true today in that our approach to synthesis is a batch based practice that utilises laboratory glassware such as round bottomed flasks and a defined sequence of discrete reaction steps, work-ups and purifications.

An alternative approach is being evaluated based upon the concept of flow chemical processing which makes use of small capillary reactors and packed bed columns as dynamic vessels for performing chemical transformations.1,2 This more holistic approach also attempts to integrate other aspects of the synthesis such as work-up and purification into the overall process delivering a clean product as one single operation. Consequently the ability to further telescope and assimilate these individual transformations into more elaborate sequences enables the generation of advanced product outputs.

This presentation will detail some of the basic concepts relating to flow chemistry and highlight the scope of it as a technique using examples from our laboratory.

  • Baxendale, I. R.; Millia, C. J.; Brocken, L.; (Flow chemistry approaches directed at improving chemical synthesis) Green Process Synth. 2013, 2, 211–230. (DOI: 10.1515/gps-2013-0029).
  • Baxendale, I. R. (The integration of flow reactors into synthetic organic chemistry) J. Chem. Technol. Biotechnol. 2013, 88, 519–552. (DOI: 10.1002/jctb.4012).

Ian Baxendale obtained his first degree from the University of Leicester graduating with a BSc 1st class honours in Chemistry. He remained at Leicester to continue his studies pursuing a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Pavel Kocovsky investigating new Organometallic catalysts based on group 6 transition metals for stereoselective allylic substitution reactions. In 1999 he moved to a postdoctoral position with Prof. Steven V. Ley at the University of Cambridge initially conducting research into Natural Product synthesis prior entering the field of Solid Supported Reagents and Scavengers. In 2003 he was awarded a Wolfson Royal Society Fellowship. In 2005 he co-founded the Innovative Technology Centre (ITC) with Prof. Ley as a centre of excellence for the study and development of advanced chemical synthesis tools and methodologies where he was the executive director. In 2008 he was promoted to a Senior Research Associate within the Department of Chemistry at Cambridge and then in 2009 was awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship and become a member of the department faculty.
Whilst at Cambridge he was also elected a Fellow at Sidney Sussex College (2000) and soon after took over as the Head of Natural Sciences teaching and for 5 years acted as the Dean of the College. In 2012 he moved to Durham to take up the Chair of Synthetic Chemistry as a fully tenured Professor. His current research interests are the design and implementation of new enabling technologies such as Flow Chemical Synthesis (FCS), Synthesis Automation Methodologies (SAM), microwave reactors and immobilised reagents and scavengers to expedite complex chemical syntheses. The success of my academic career is reflected by >150 publications (H-index=47), including several reviews and book chapters, with a total of >5800 citations.

Fungal Biology and Recombinant Enzyme Optimisation

Ronald de Vries

The kingdom fungi is highly varied and contains both unicellular (yeasts) and multicellular (filamentous) species as well as some that can exist in both morphological forms. Fungi are present in all natural and manmade environments and have both beneficial as well as antagonistic effects on society. Several fungal species have a long history of use in human society, dating back several 1000’s of years. Examples of these are production of beer, wine, bread and soy sauce.

The specific biological features that are at the basis of these applications include both common physiological characteristics of these organisms as well as highly diverse aspects that make the individual species particularly suitable for their natural biotope. In this presentation examples of both types of aspects will be provided.

One of the critical aspects in the use of fungal enzymes for biotechnology is the production cost of the enzymes. Especially in the genomic era where a wealth of novel enzymes can be discovered in fungal genome sequences, the recombinant production of these novel enzymes in established fungal production hosts is of major importance. Depending on the origin of the enzyme, the success of such a process varies, but several strategies can be used to improve their production. Examples of these strategies will also be provided.

Combichem in academic teaching and research

Erik Abbenhuis/Hans de Vries

Erik Abbenhuis is author on 50 scientific publications, next to inventor on over 30 patent applications. His work involves catalysis and material science. He previously worked at the Technical University of Eindhoven, ETH Zurich, Strasbourg University and Utrecht University.

In 2005 Abbenhuis founded the company Hybrid Catalysis BV. Here any catalyst can be made and screened under industrial conditions, Own innovation related to the development of silsesquioxane (POSS) based catalysts, see:

Prof. Erik Abbenhuis and Prof. Hans de Vries gave a joint presentation on combichem in academic teaching and research. Prof. Abbenhuis introduced his company, Hybrid Catalysis, which focuses on synthesizing catalysts and testing them under industrial conditions. They emphasized that combinatorial chemistry requires a multi-disciplinary approach and universities should train students adequately. Students can not only benefit from their experience with combichem but also contributed to its development. After highlighting the advantages and potential drawbacks of combichem, they gave examples of efficient automated systems used to perform various reactions.