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The ultimate aim of catalysis especially research work in Catalysis is to achieve atom efficiency (that is every atom in the reactant has to be in the desired products so that no waste product is produced), energy efficiency (to keep the cost of production low), environmental friendliness (green chemistry consisting of not only reducing pollution but also giving way to waste treatment and control, analysis and characterization of pollutants) and engineering efficiency (with minimum number of unit operations). From these and other points of view, the science of catalysis seems to have reached a matured status in the west while the same cannot be said of the Asia-Pacific region. The views on catalysis from that of the Asia-Pacific region can be different from that of North America and Europe. This point of view is demonstrated in the following statements of Prof Moon of the Seoul National University, Korea. He says "Singapore has a large petrochemical complex. Singapore sees many opportunities for further developments in these areas though the technology is considered mature in the USA and Europe". These opportunities lie in different requirements of environment and in different patterns of product consumption. By-products can be used as raw materials for further processes.

Similar ideas are being implemented in South Korea. Countries like Malaysia and India have different raw materials, such as palm oil, bio-diesel and so on. In his opinion, the Asia–Pacific region should emphasize more on these conventional and mature areas. Another important aspect of research in catalysis in this region pertains to the concept of the developed nations that research in catalysis in these regions is some kind of foreign aid and they want to develop in a consortium mode. In whatever context we look, research in catalysis in the Asia–Pacific region assumes an important position for government concerns and for the curiosity of the academia. In fact it is worth noting that this importance has been felt by many of the countries in the west and also in the Asia – pacific region and hence they are developing centers of excellence and such centers have come up in China, Japan and also in Korea, in addition to multiple centers in the western countries like United Kingdom, United States of America, France and The Netherlands..

The science of catalysis is driven by many factors. On the one hand, though we want to increase our industrial production, one has to worry how the commercial products and industrial waste materials can be made environmentally benign. Another aspect is the demand of green chemistry for use of products and processes based on renewable materials. The possibilities in this direction appear to be hydrogen from water (through solar cell or photo-electrochemical route) and biomass providing organic chemicals (conversion of sucrose or glucose to lactic acid and oxidation of poly saccharides to useful organic chemicals) and the approach demands a mix of chemical catalysis with bio-catalysis.

Essentially the strength of catalysis today is that it has all the necessary tools for studying the phenomenon of catalysis. The approaches for studying have also been delineated clearly. However, the weakness of this exercise is that integration of the theory to practice on a large scale appears to be difficult. The laboratory practice is based on some small scale measures whereas large scale production with expected 30% return appears to be asking for the moon. Secondly, since the existing manufacturing plants have high production capacities, it is difficult to integrate the small scale modules with the existing multipurpose production facilities. Also, the know–how generated at laboratory scales are not easily amenable for transformation to industrial practice. However, there are opportunities for the developments in this area and they are driven by the society and it is no longer pushed by the technology. The needs and demands of the society are increasing and hence the opportunities available for innovation are enormous. The threat one will have to face in this endeavor is the link between legislation, industry and research. The consistency and understanding of the importance of catalysis by these three agencies are the key factors threatening the growth of research in this field. The fear that industrial research is confidential while academic research is focused on transfer of knowledge and such conflicting interests cannot be merged. Against this background, it is necessary to see the important aspects of catalysis which will have interest in future. The listing given below is in no order of priority and is only to indicate what aspects of catalysis will receive increasing attention world over in the coming years:

1. Exploiting solar energy for the production of hydrogen and other chemicals:

This appears to be feasible even if only 1 % of the radiation falling on the earth is trapped in a solar cell which has an efficiency of 15%. This electricity when used for electrolysis of water even with 80% efficiency will become economical and viable and hence the demands are not too much. Efforts will be made to move towards these targets. Production of organic chemicals from various sources including waste cellulose or biomass wi1l be another area which will receive attention.

2. Dioxygen as selective oxidant:

The wider use of oxygen as a selective oxidant will gain importance especially for the partial oxidation of organic substrates. The cleaner oxidants so far utilized are hydrogen peroxide, ozone and tertiary butyl hydro peroxide but they are not economical. Use of oxygen appears to be challenging, cheaper and least hazardous among the various possible oxidants. Partial oxidation of organic substrates especially hydrocarbons will become increasingly important for the production of fine chemicals.

3. Activation of saturated hydrocarbons and use of natural gas as feedstock:

It may be necessary that our feedstock composition and pattern have to change drastically. This means that we have to learn to activate most of the saturated organic molecules without combusting them. New materials that can act as catalysts for functionalization of saturated organic molecules will have remarkable effect in the production of commodity chemicals in the future.

4. Enantio-selective catalysis:

There are various scopes in this area and this is an area which has been emphasized time and again. Various homogeneous catalyst systems are well known and anchoring them or utilizing enzymes will be the directions in which this area will further develop. It is also possible that newsolid chiral catalysts will be formulated and utilized for selective synthesis of asymmetric products useful for pharmaceutical applications

5. Photo-catalysis with visible light:

Absorption of photons appears to be a fascinating means for activation of molecules but the availability of photons in an economical sense appears to be difficult. This problem would be surmounted if one can make use of visible light and it is necessary that one has to work on energy transfer systems which will absorb visible light but activate the molecules in the UV region. This type of energy "transfer systems in the form of coupled semiconductors or in new materials may have to be developed in the near future.

6. New Polymerization Catalysis:

New polymerization catalysts based on metal complexes creating site specific metal complexes which can give rise to stereo-regular polymerization processes are challenging propositions. These aspects will be seriously looked into in the coming years.

7. Catalysis for waste water treatment:

Water is an essential material with limited resource. Man has to design ingenious methods to treat wastewater efficiently so as to be able to reuse it. The demand is going to grow more and more and one has to necessarily find ways and means to convert waste water into usable water through a combination of catalysts and photons.

8. Use of enzymes in process engineering:

The engineering processes will be totally changed and conventional catalysis has to be converted into bio-catalytic process requiring less energy and better efficiency. This has to be necessarily done and has to be done at a faster speed.

9. Development of suitable electro-catalyst:

Energy demands pattern for stationary and mobile applications will change in the near future as the culture and habits are undergoing changes. It is, therefore, necessary that new electrochemical energy devices either batteries or fuel cells have to be evolved and this requires development of efficient electro-catalysts.

10. Use of exotic materials for catalysis:

This is one area where new developments in material science and the phenomena associated with these new materials can be exploited for various selective processes.

The Indian catalysis community has many success stories to tell on the development of catalysts which have been used in industrial practice today. For example, Encilite (NCL, ACC and IPCL) for isomerization, the Albene process (NCL), reforming catalysts (IIP,NCL), hydrogenation catalysts (IPCL), refining catalysts (IIT-M and IOC), ammoxidation catalysts (IICT,SPIC), fertilizer catalysts (PDIL), etherification catalysts both solid and bio systems (IITM), exhaust catalysts (IITM), SCR catalysts (ACC) are some of the typical examples of the indigenous developments of our country.

Catalysis research in India has nucleated around some important centers during the last fifty years. Among various such centers, Chennai has gained the most important status. Prof.Yedanapalli in Loyola college and a critical size group in Indian Institute of Technology, Madras under Prof. M.V.C. Sastry have played an important role in capacity building for research in catalysis since 1960s. Many leaders of research in catalysis in India have been products of the early initiatives of Chennai in the area of catalysis during the mid fifties and early sixties in capacity building. Although research on catalysis has now more widely rooted in different R and D centers and industries in the country, capacity building programs in the area of catalysis have not kept pace with the expanding base of research. There is a need to launch a major initiative on capacity building in catalysis research by creating some National centers in academic institutions and centers of excellence.

Catalysis research in India is believed to be in the threshold of major advances in this country. Some successful past stories provide the necessary impetus for further investments and likely breakthroughs. Catalyst systems for production of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals in India are gaining high relevance in the expanding base of industrial sector. Development of expertise in the area of catalysis for deployment in both academic research and industrial applications is crucial. At the moment there is little interaction among the institutions engaged in the development of catalysts and applications in industrial production. There exists also a communication gap and lack of mutual confidence on each other between academic institutions and industrial users. This gap is best bridged by developing one academic program in educational institutions with proven record of excellence. Expertise developed through such education activities is expected to strengthen the industry-research linkages and facilitate mutual confidence building exercises.

In the expanding base of applications of catalysis in industrial manufacture, Indian industry will have to necessarily take advantages of catalysis for remaining globally competitive. There is an urgent need to catalyze the development of stronger linkages of academic and research institutions with industrial users of catalysts in manufacture. Such a catalyst in the promotion of academy-research- industry linkage in catalysis is the proposed National Center of Catalysis.

Why do we need a centre of catalysis?

In Indian context advanced frontier research in catalysis is being carried out in a number of laboratories lIP, Dehradun RRL,Trivandrum; like NCL,Pune; RRL,Bhubancswar; IICT,Hyderabad; CSMCRI, Bhavanagar; CECRI, Karaikudi; RRL ,Jorhat; CFRI, Dhanbad; CGCRI, Kolkatta and public and private sector laboratories like IPCL, Baroda; ACC, Thane; HLL, Mumbai; PDIL Sindri and many others in the private sector. There are many institutions and industries working on catalysis, which critically need (a) trained manpower )b) resource center for advanced knowledge and information (c) an expertise center for advanced reseach collaboration and (d) a consulting organization from which viable and secure solutions to problems needing catalysis is provided. There are good illustrative examples in the world which provide one-stop solutions in catalysis. Institute of Catalysis, France, Center for Innovative Catalysis UK, and the Center for Catalysis USA, Research centers in Japan, China, Korea, The Netherlands and South Africa are some good examples in the area of catalysis. India needs one or more such centers. Since Catalysis is an area where expertise requirements are critical, Indian Institutes of Technologies which have emerged centers of excellence in engineering education on a global platform offer fertile grounds for domiciling such centers which (a) provide education, (b) undertake advanced research and (c) deliver time bound consultancies to industrial users. In fact many countries in the world have established such centers, a few typical ones arc the Institute of Catalysis, in France, the centre for Innovative catalysis in UK, the Centre for Catalysis in USA, the Research Centers in Hokkaido in Japan, China and Korea and many other countries like The Netherlands, South Africa and so on.

As a central place for information in catalysis:

Catalysis research is a multidisciplinary activity requiring lot of information retrieval and analysis. Many of the research centers in India are seriously handicapped with this aspect and individual scientists are sloughing through various data bases to get the required information. Secondly, the status of processes or product manufacture, which is often required by manufacturers are not easily available. Also there is no mechanism by which this could be arranged. A centre of catalysis can organize this type of activity systematically.

A Clearing house for trouble shoots:

Many of the organizations are facing trouble shoots and it is not unusual each of them are independently solved or shelved, even though similar problems faced by others could have given rise to some knowledge-base. This dissemination of this knowledge-base is not possible today as there is no central place for such an activity and its retrieval as and when required.

Information store house:

Scientific endeavors in catalysis have given rise to much fruitful activity. The

Catalysis Society of India is one of the active scientific societies in India and it has started to bring out a scientific journal called the Bulletin of the Catalysis Society of India. The society is also organizing national symposia and workshops every alternate year and also has brought out many publications. These publications are valuable information sources and dissemination of information by the Catalysis Society of India especially the journal has to be organized in a systematic manner. The office of the Catalysis Society of India is presently located in the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology, and Madras. If the Centre for Catalysis were to be formed it can function as the nucleus of this activity as well.

Center for Man Power Development

It is essential that we generate necessary man power properly trained in the area of catalysis. Most of the laboratories mentioned elsewhere in the document have only Ph D programme and no systematic course at Masters or Post Masters level is offered

in any of the Indian Universities except for the M.Tech Programme offered by Cochin University for Science and Technology. It is necessary that we develop and sustain a course based educational programme in catalysis so that middle level scientific personnel are available to man our industries in future. The centre can evolve such a programme. Secondly the existing personnel require periodical updating and also follow-up courses. There is no structure which can organize such course now. A center for catalysis can be asked to organize such periodical refresher courses for the existing man power in industries. The Department of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras has organized similar courses for Industrial personnel in the past.

The Department of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras has also organized number of orientation programmes in catalysis for research scholars in lit, Madras, lIT, Bombay, IIT Kharagpur, and in CUSAT, Cochin.. They have also organized schools in surface science and catalysis for Masters students of various universities at lIT, Madras and these programmes have been well appreciated and the general feed back which have been submitted to DST at various times showed that these courses have benefited the research out put of this country in the area of catalysis.

These activities can be sustained and improved upon if a centre is available to handle them. In fact a comprehensive book on catalysis was published by Narosa Publishing House in 2002 resulting from one of these orientation programmes sponsored by DST.

Vision for “The NationalCenter for Catalysis” proposed for establishment at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

The proposed National Center for Catalysis at IIT Madras proposes to actively build human capacities and expertise manpower while undertaking advanced rese4ach in frontier areas of basic sciences relating to catalysis. The center will also actively and aggressively solicit support from industrial users to both training and research problems. The center, while emerging a knowledge center will undertake to play a reliable test and training house serving also as store house of relevant information to user industries. The center will strive to generate at least 30% of its annual budgetary needs from non-governmental sources. The vision of the proposed center is to emerge the National capacity building and knowledge capital on catalysis, which will promote a vibrant partnership among the trinity of academy-research-industry.

Rationale and justification for Locating the ProposedNationalCenter in Catalysis in IIT Madras

Chemistry Department at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras has gained considerable credibility in the research area of catalysis. There are several examples to illustrate the credibility of the group in IIT among user industries.

Past success stories on Research Partnership with Industries

Some of the success stories of IIT Madras on application research on catalysis are

  • Development of new formulation for FCC catalyst in collaboration with the then Madras Refineries Limited leading to five patents.
  • Development of important catalysts for NO x reduction in collaboration with Air products USA leading to a US and multi country patent
  • Development of catalysts for cleaner process for the preparation of an ester for applications in adhesives.

Long Proven Track Record

The research group in IIT Madras has been working actively and in a sustainable manner in the area of catalysis for the last 40 years. The group commands a large share of publications emanating from India in the area of Catalysis.

Ability to Attract Human Talents

IIT, Madras enjoys high credibility among young learners and researchers as a center of excellence. It is in a position to attract talents for advanced education and training as well as for research. The national center for catalysis will provide an opportunity to superior methods of education and training to the talent attracted to IIT Madras. The center will also enable IIT Madras to attract young researchers from India and abroad for faculty positions.

Proximity to AnnaUniversity and other Centers of Learning.

IIT Madras and Anna University are two important centers of learning which are also located physically in the same part of Chennai. Several research students in Anna University are engaged in research in Catalysis. The center located in Madras and managed using the strong procedures of internal governance in the IIT system can extend also formally and structured manner the facilities and support to the large number of research students in Anna University as well.

Programs to Enlarge Reach

The center will initiate a novel system in which bonafide students of other research centers working in the area of catalysis can formally spend selected periods in the National center and carry out research. This will enable the center to ensure a larger national reach.

Proximity to user Industries.

Number of fine chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries has emerged in and around Chennai. Some of these industries are needed to replace their current processes with cleaner alternatives. Biological and Environmental catalysts are actively being sought by user industries in and around Chennai. Some of the large industrial units have also invested on in house R and D centers. These centers require well trained manpower. The proximity of these user industries to IIT Madras is a distinct advantage in locating the center in IIT Madras.

Expressed Organization will of IIT Madras to Domicile the ProposedNational Center

IIT Madras has developed an organizational vision to scout for talents in the area of catalysis for both learning and research and commit itself to support the initiatives of the proposed center to emerge the knowledge capital of India on Catalysis.

Centre for Advanced Research

Research in catalysis has taken a totally different picture today. Many of the problems faced by the bulk catalyst manufacturers and users of catalysts can be solved by detailed examination of the catalyst particles at the molecular level. Many of the manufacturing processes like gel preparation, crystallization and many other unit operations can be carried out precisely from the knowledge created or generated.

The centre can be expected to do some fundamental studies on the following aspects as well:

1. Development of catalysts for the existing processes

A. The Department of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras was the first institution in this country to come up with new formulation for FCC catalysts with then MRL and patented them.

B. Secondly, they have developed some of the important catalysts for the NOx reduction and patented them in collaboration with Air Products USA and also patented the same in USA and many other countries.

C. The team at IIT madras has also developed a number of catalysts for fine chemicals production the notable one being the preparation of esters especially useful in adhesive industry by a cleaner route.

2. Converting many of the existing processes into solid acid catalyzed processes:

This is one area where considerable research and development activity can be directed and also advantageously utilized. There are many fine chemical processes which still depend on homogeneous acid or oxidizing medium and these processes can be converted into solid acid catalyzed based process so that they are environmentally acceptable and also become economical because of the possibility of reuse of the catalysts.

3. Development of some unconventional new catalyst systems:

This is another fertile area since many new materials are being synthesized everyday and these materials have tremendous potential to be good catalysts. Their potential has to be evaluated and also suitable structure activity correlations generated so that predictive tool may be made available.

The group at the Department of Chemistry has examined a number of multi­- component oxides like perovskites, spinels and has come up with some novel catalyst systems. A systematic study will enable a direct structure activity correlation which will go a long way for catalyst selection.

4. Development and fundamental studies on catalysts in frontier areas:

This is one of the strong points of the group at the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and they have been working in the fundamental areas of catalysis for the past 40 years and have established themselves as one of the leading centers in this country and also to some extent in the world. This activity will certainly bring this centre to the international scene.

5. Training centre for technical back-up in catalysis research:

In this activity the department of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras has shown its leadership in more than one way in the past and it is desirable that this activity can be groomed and allowed to grow in the future.

6. to function as testing and analytical centre for industries:

In this activity the Catalysis Division of the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology has shown its capability in the past 15 years. They have rendered service to more than 1000 institutions both academic and industrial organizations.

7. To be the nodal point for liaison activity with other centers in the world:

Catalysis research has become a corporate activity now. Many of the centers are working in network mode and advanced research is being carried out on contract basis now by many multinationals.

8. The centre can also be evolved in line with similar centers in the world and can be organized in. the same framework so that innovative and challenging problems in Catalysis can be handled in house and the knowledge base can be effectively utilized.

9. It is possible this center can function as a nucleus for the typical industrial practice and can come up with suitable substitutes to the existing technologies.

 

Research Activities of the Proposed Centre

The Research Centre can be expected to focus the following areas essentially:

1. Development of catalyst system based on meso-porous and micro-porous solids.

2. Development of solid acid catalysts for fine chemical production, especially based on heteropoly acids.

3. Photo catalysis and photo catalytic production of chemicals and hydrogen.

4. Supported metals systems especially for syngas conversion as well as exhaust conversion reactions and also catalysis by multi-component systems.

5. Catalysts for refinery process and additives.

6. Evaluation of catalytic processes at molecular level by surface analytical techniques.

7. Development of Enzyme mimics based on solid supports.

8. Polymerization catalysts especially single site catalytic processes.

9. Development of electro catalytic systems for batteries and fuel cells.

10. Development of novel catalytic materials based on nano materials, multicomponent oxide systems and meso porous solids detailed research proposals on these areas are given in our original document submitted to DST. A few areas particularly pursued by some specific co-investigators are given in the following pages as indications of the type of core research activity that will be pursued by the proposed centre. All other areas mentioned in these sections are pursued and will be pursued by the group as a whole. These areas are chosen taking into account the ongoing research programmes as well as the trends in catalysis research in India and elsewhere. The specific projects mentioned will be pursued by many of the investigators and it will be group effort and hence individual names are not identified. However, many of these areas are being actively pursued by the principle investigator and his group.

The catalysis Group at Indian Institute of Technology has a great tradition. Prof. M V C Sastri, the first Head of the Department had a great vision and contributed to the research in Catalysis in the Department of Chemistry. This tradition and tempo was maintained by Prof J C Kuriacose. Prof V.Srinivasan, Prof C.N.Pillai, Prof V.Mahadevan, Prof.C.S.Swamy, Prof M Srinvasan, Prof J Rajaram, Prof V R S Rao and many other past and present faculty members of the Department of Chemistry Indian Institute of Technology have contributed to the research in the field of catalysis. This strong foundation laid by all these eminent people is the source and inspiration for founding the National Centre for Catalysis in the Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.