The Hammond Lab sits on the chemistry/chemical engineering interface, and specialises in the development of chemical processes through a combination of application testing, materials design, in situ spectroscopy and reaction engineering. The lab has particular expertise in the area of catalytic chemistry, and more recently, has also established lines of research focused on biomedical engineering.
Details of some of these projects are outlined below, and a full list of publications can be accessed from Google Scholar.
Catalysis plays an essential role in physiology, nature, and the production of chemicals and fuels. Within this area, our interests and topics of expertise are diverse, and can be broadly categorised into the following themes; (1) the development of chemical processes catalysed by (novel) solid catalysts; (2) advanced mechanistic studies of catalytic materials and processes with in situ spectroscopy, and (3) the intensification i.e. upscaling, of catalytic processes. We are applications orientated, the most notable examples of which include:
Catalytic upgrading of waste and renewables
Our lab specialises in the production of important commodity chemicals starting from renewable materials and waste compounds, such as plastic waste and agricultural waste. Our most notable breakthroughs to date have been
- To understand, and subsequently overcome, the deactivation of stannosilicates during the continuous upgrading of glucose (React. Chem. Eng. 3 (2018) 155);
- To develop hierarchical zeolite catalysts that are more resistant to deactivation, and better at converting bulky sugar-derived fragments (J. Mat. Chem. A. 4 (2016) 1373);
- To produce renewable, polymer-grade lactones from terpenes (ChemSusChem 10 (2017) 3652, polymerised by Dr. A. Buchard at Bath);
- To produce a continuous stream of H2 from renewables to power PEM fuel cells (ACS Catalysis 9 (2019) 9188);
- To develop a Hf-containing zeolite that is the only heterogeneous catalyst to date to be able to reach thermodynamic equilibrium for glucose-fructose isomerisation at continuous processing conditions.
Catalytic C1 chemistry
C1 compounds, including CO2 and CH4, are widely produced waste compounds and/or potent greenhouse gases. As such, their catalytic conversion to more desirable compounds is an important environmental and societal challenge. However, their inert nature makes them extremely challenging to activate and functionalise, and hence their catalytic conversion represents some of the most elusive targets in catalysis. Our research in this area focuses on the functionalisation of CO2 and CH4 with heterogeneous catalysts through oxidative and non-oxidative methods. Our most notable breakthroughs to date has been the development of a new route to selectively oxidise methane to methanol in the aqueous phase, using Fe/Cu zeolite catalysts (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 51 (2012) 5129).
Fine Chemical manufacture by continuous heterogeneous (photo)catalysis
We are using our expertise in catalysis and reaction engineering to develop new methods to synthesise fine chemicals in a scalable manner. Our biggest achievement to date includes the development of a new ‘selective fluorination’ strategy, which combines heterogeneous catalysis and continuous photochemistry, the initial article of which (ACS Catalysis 8 (2018) 10321) was recently awarded an “Editor’s Choice Award” from The American Chemical Society.
Intensification in catalytic chemistry
A major focal point of our research is the intensification of catalytic chemistry. Alongside classical process intensification studies (e.g. deactivation studies, reactor scale up, separation), we are also interested in the development of new catalyst preparation methodologies that are suitable for industrial scale employment. Breakthroughs include the synthesis of zeolites by mechanochemical (solid state) means and the development of continuous flow crystallisation.
We also use 3D printing and CNC machining to fabricate microstructured reactors that permit online process monitoring and reactor mapping. We use these in situ methods alongside more conventional ex situ methods to generate structure-activity-lifetime relationships, which are essential to process intensification (ACS Catalysis 8 (2018) 7131).
Despite on-going efforts, cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Given the limitations of existing approaches, there is an urgent need for scientists to develop novel approaches with fewer side effects in order to better tackle this extremely deadly disease. In this light, targeted cancer therapy - which allows selective treatment of only cancerous cells and allows normal tissue to remain unaffected - remains the holy grail of cancer research.
Here, our team uses its expertise in the field of nanotechnology and nanoparticle engineering, with the aim of developing therapeutic compounds that are able to selectively target cancerous cells.