Department of Chemical Engineering

Reaction and Catalysis Engineering research unit



Director: Dr Pawel Plucinski
Tel: +44 (0) 1225 38 6961


We carry out research from fundamental catalyst development to full reactor design and integration. Our goal is to develop novel catalyst/reactor configurations with increased effectiveness and stability whilst reducing energy and material consumption.

Catalytic processes are key enabling technologies to address environmental and economic challenges in the 21st century. They have wide application, including:

  • efficient generation of materials from renewable sources
  • generation of energy from the sun
  • environmental clean up

Catalysis and reactor engineering are at the heart of our current industrial model. Over 80% of manufactured materials need the application of catalysis during production. There is an industry-wide drive to develop more sustainable and efficient processes using multifunctional materials. We are at the forefront of research in this crucial sector, supporting three major themes:

  • Catalysts and reactors design across the scales
  • energy generation and transformation
  • waste-free chemical transformations and environmental protections

Centre for Doctoral Training in Catalysis

Working with the University of Bristol and the Cardiff University, we host the EPSRC-supported Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Catalysis. The Centre offers a four-year doctoral programme to carry out research that will address challenges such as clean energy generation, environmental clean-up of air and water, and sustainable manufacture.

In detail

Our current activities are in the areas:

  • Improved oil recovery processes
  • Compact intensive reactors, process intensification
  • Catalytic membranes and membrane reactors
  • Reaction kinetics and catalyst characterisation
  • Reactive separations
  • Novel materials for reactive separations and catalysis, nanomaterials
  • Production and storage of hydrogen
  • Novel microreactors
  • Biocatalysis
  • Waste remediation (waste water, advanced oxidation processes).
  • Feasibility of hydrogen storage on TiO2 nanotubes
  • High-temperature capture of carbon dioxide
  • Kinetics of double bond migration and telomerisation reactions
  • Development of nanomagnetic catalysts
  • Investigation of acidity in working bifunctional zeolite catalysts used for conversion of light alkanes
  • New oxide-based materials for catalytic applications
  • Coking under supercritical conditions
  • Downhole gasification for improved oil recovery
  • Combining bio and chemical catalysis
  • Singlet oxygen photochemistry.

Catalysis Laboratory: in a well-serviced laboratory, fundamental experiments are performed on powdered catalysts to assess the characteristics of the catalysts, reactions mechanisms, number and location of active sites, etc.

Reaction Engineering Laboratories: experiments are performed in autoclaves (batch, semibatch) and continuous single/multi-channel reactors under reaction operating conditions resembling the commercial process. The apparatus is mounted on benches, or purpose built frames, with the exhaust from each rig connected to a local fume extract duct. This creates a truly professional working environment. Larger pieces of kit are placed in full-height, walk-in fume cupboards.

Catalytic Combustion & Reaction Engineering Laboratory: this contains three modern purpose built walk-in fume cupboards, in which the apparatus is constructed and operated. When performing experiments at elevated temperatures fugitive emissions arise from metal surfaces as they are heated, and the products of the combustion reaction need to be removed. These emissions are contained within the fume cupboard and then extracted by the ventilation system.

Two High Pressure Test Cells: these modern facilities include a separate control room. The cells are suitable for experiments where there is a risk that a rupture could occur, or an explosive atmosphere arise e.g. high pressure experiments using hydrogen. Currently housing a high pressure porous wall liquid recirculating reactor.

Improved Oil Recovery Laboratory: this contains two walk-in, enclosed safety areas in which 3D combustion cells and gasification reactors are operated. A special separated laboratory area is devoted to high pressure accelerating rate calorimetry (ARC). Extensive open laboratory area is available for small experiments and analytical work.