Prof Kenneth Waugh - research
Heterogeneous catalysis is the great enabling discipline of chemistry. Over 80% of all the worlds industrial chemicals are produced through the aegis of a heterogeneous catalyst. Because both of its complexity and its applicability, it has been a subject of enduring intellectual stimulation, witnessed by the award of 13 Nobel Prizes to scientist engaged in the subject, from vant Hoff (1901) and Haber (1918) to Ertl (2007), all of whom worked on the catalysis of ammonia synthesis.
My current research interests are in: (i) the epoxidation of ethylene to ethylene oxide on Ag/Al2O3 catalysts [1-3], (ii) methanol synthesis on supported Cu catalysts [4-10], (iii) ethyl acetate synthesis on supported Cu catalysts,  and (iv) Fischer-Tropsch synthesis on supported Co catalysts.
In the area of ethylene epoxidation on Ag/Al2O3 we have shown that the stronger the Ag-O bond is, the less selective it is. We have also shown that the Cl and Cs promoters in Ag/Al2O3 catalysts (additives which increase selectivity) weaken the Ag-O bond (Cl) and block the formation of the strong Ag-O bond (Cs) [1-3]. I am currently collaborating with the software company, Accelrys, on molecular modelling of the likely intermediates involved (see figure) to determine the dynamics of the selective and unselective reactions .
In the area of Cu based catalysis, my interest is in determining, in situ, the morphology of the operating catalyst. I am particularly interested in investigating the role of subsurface hydrogen atoms in Cu in determining the surface morphology of the Cu. I am also investigating the extent to which subsurface H contributes to the surface hydrogen reaction.