Graham J. Hutchings#

Laudatio by Sir J.M. Thomas#


Education and career

After graduating (1972) and obtaining his PhD in biological chemistry (1975) at University College London, Professor GJ. Hutchings spent his initial career (1975-1984) in industry with appointments in both research and production at ICI in the UK and AECI in South Africa. In 1984, he started an academic career at the University ofthe Witswatersrand before returning to the UK at the University of Liverpool in 1987. In 1997, he was invited by Cardiff University to be the Head of the School of Chemistry.

In 2009, Professor G.J. Hutchings was elected Fellow of the Royal Society.

Professor G.J. Hutchings as outstanding scientist

Professor G.J. Hutchings works in heterogeneous catalysis. He has extensive collaborative links within the UK, (Imperial College, Cambridge, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow), as well as internationally (Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, Lehigh University, USA, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa). The research of his group which collaborates extensively with the industry (Johnson Matthey, BP, Sasol BNFL, Dow) focuses on the following four areas: i) catalysis by gold, ii) Cl chemistry, iii) selective oxidation, and iv) enantioselective catalysis.

In the first area, Professor G.J. Hutchings was the first to predict in 1985 that gold would be the most active catalyst for reactions of` acetylenes. Hitherto, gold had been regarded as an inactive catalyst. It is now known that nanocrystalline gold can be a very active redox catalyst. Current research in his group focuses on selective oxidation, for example the selective oxidation of hydrogen to form hydrogen peroxide, and selective oxidation of bio-renewable feedstocks, for example glycerol. Emphasis is placed on catalyst preparation and characterisation using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

In the second area, his work has largely contributed to improve our understanding of the mechanism of reactions involving C1 molecules (Fischer-Tropsch reaction, methanol conversion, methane coupling) and of the nature of the solid phase, catalytically active under real reaction conditions. This was achieved, on the molecular side, by selecting appropriate model reactants or, on the solid catalyst side, by selecting model solids or by carefully designing special in situ cells to be mounted on specific physical techniques or spectrometers.

Research on the topic of selective oxidation concentrates on the study of vanadium phosphates and oxides as catalysts for the oxidation of alkanes. Research methodology includes the use of transient pulse flow reactors and, in particular, mechanistic studies are carried out using a TAP-II reactor and a gas-gas periodic flow reactor. Characterisation using in situ spectroscopy and diffraction are used extensively to examine these complex catalysts under reaction conditions. A recent observation of particular significance has been the 4 identification of the role played by amorphous, rather than crystalline, vanadium phosphates in the selective oxidation of n-butane to maleic anhydride and this is being exploited in the design of improved catalysts. Catalyst preparation using supercritical media is a topic of current interest for the group and a wholly amorphous vanadium phosphate has been prepared using supercritical CO2 as an antisolvent, which is significantly more active than crystalline vanadium phosphates.

Research on the topic of enantioselective catalysis has used two main lines of attack. The initial work was based on the modification of zeolite Y with dithiane oxide for the enantioselective dehydration of butan-2-ol. Subsequently we have developed this methodology as a design approach based on the ion exchange of metal cations into microporous and mesoporous structures and their utilisation in non-aqueous media. The electrostatic attraction of the metal cation and the anionic zeolite lattice is sufficient, in non- aqueous media, to ensure that the cation remains immobilised. This approach has been used to design the first heterogeneous catalyst for the enantioselective aziridination of alkenes based on CuH-zeolite Y. Subsequently, we have shown that the chiral bis(oxazoline) modified Cu-exchanged zeolite Y can also be effective for enantioselective Diels Alder reactions and carboxyl- and imino-ene reactions. The second line of attack on these chiral V studies has been the use of heterogeneously catalysed reactions at the gas solid interface and recently he demonstrated the first example of such a reaction. Work on this theme will now focus on designing enantioselective oxidation catalysts at the gas-solid interface.

Professor G.J. Hutchings as charismatic scientist

Professor G.J. Hutchings spent his first nine years in industry before moving to academia in South Ahica where he established a research group in heterogeneous catalysis that continues today. In 1987 he moved to Liverpool to help establish the Leverhulme Centre for Innovation Catalysis which under his direction in 1994-5 became a major centre for heterogeneous catalysis. As Head of School at Cardiff University he established Chemistry as the pre eminent School of Chemistry in Wales, appointing 29 new staff and restructuring the facilities. In 2008 he established the Cardiff Catalysis Institute which now has over 90 scientists working in all fields of catalysis and has become the leading catalysis research facility in the UK. He has supervised over 150 PhD students and 120 postdoctoral young scientists, most of which have taken up key positions in industry and academia.

Professor G.J. Hutchings as European scientist

Professor G.J.. Hutchings has been very active, particularly through his involvement with the chairing of sessions at the European Catalysis Conference Series Europacat. He has collaborated with scientists in Lyon and Berlin on oxidation catalysis setting up several EU research projects. He set up and coordinated a Europe-wide collaboration on gold catalysis through a major EU grant Auricat, Since 1999, he has been a member of the Fachbeirat of the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin. He regularly lectures at meetings and Institutes in Europe as an invited participant. His involvement in European research in catalysis was recognised by the award of the Francois Gault lectureship in 2005, the highest Award given in the field of catalysis in Europe. Since 1999, he has been an editor of Journal of Catalysis (Elsevier).

In conclusion, Professor G.J. Hutchings was the first to predict and then show that Au is a highly effective catalyst for ethyne hydrochlorination, thereby establishing a new field of catalysis. He subsequently showed that Au can promote demanding selective oxidation reactions. He took a leading role in understanding the mechanisms of key C1 reactions. His early work at ICI made discoveries with oxidation catalysts that are still commercially operated. He has led use of in situ methods to determine catalyst structure during reactions and using Raman spectroscopy, he demonstrated the key importance of amorphous vanadium phosphates in butane oxidation. He pioneered enantioselective catalysis using electrostatically immobilised complexes providing a generic approach to the design of stable selective catalysts, and extended this to demonstrate that enantioselective reactions can occur at the gas-solid interface in the absence of solvent, providing facile operability of these complex processes.


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