Catalytic aerobic oxidation reactions are attractive due to their atom economy, reduced waste and lower cost. However they are little used because they are challenging in terms of suitable catalyst availability and because of safety issues.
A project funded under the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future theme set out to develop safe catalytic reactor technology alongside developing new catalytic materials and generating better fundamental understanding of aerobic heterogeneous catalytic oxidations.
The project group found that by using continuous flow membrane reactors, the gas and liquid phases of the reaction are kept separate and the formation of flammable mixtures is avoided. Both packed bed and catalyst impregnated membrane reactors were successfully demonstrated, using the selective oxidation of benzyl alcohol to benzaldehyde as the model reaction. High selectivity could be obtained using the catalytic membrane reactor due to improved oxygen mass transfer to the catalyst. The optimal reactor configuration depends on catalyst activity, stability and formulation.
The positive outcomes from this project are the result of multi-disciplinary collaboration across the partner institutions - University College London, Imperial College London, University of Leeds, Cardiff Catalysis Institute, University of Huddersfield - and their supporting industrial partners - GSK, AstraZeneca, Syngenta and Johnson Matthey.
For more detailed information about the project please refer to the Project Summary Document and Presentation.
The team are now seeking follow on funding to extend the range of transformations, catalysts and reactors, underpinned by fundamental understanding of the reactions. If you are interested in being involved, please contact Asterios Gavriilidis.