Catalysis by Design

Recent progress in catalysis research has revealed an increasingly detailed picture of molecular processes that underlie catalytic cycles. Revolutionary advances in nanotechnology, biochemistry, photochemistry, organometallic chemistry, organic chemistry, material science, surface science, in situ atomic-scale characterization tools and reactor designs, in combination with the exponentially increasing power of high-performance computing, have initiated a paradigm shift from catalyst screening towards a predictive approach resulting in "Catalysis by Design."

The KAUST Catalysis Center (KCC) was established as a world-leading hub developing a multi-disciplinary approach to "Catalysis by Design" and targeting scientific challenges of the 21st century. Catalytic processes today strongly impact the industrial, agricultural and consumer sectors, and catalysts are fundamental for a broad range of devices, including sensors, fuel cells, exhaust gas converters and water purifiers. Development of new catalytic processes across the chemical, petroleum and new energies industries will increase resource and energy utilization efficiencies and reduce waste and overall environmental footprints. 

As the heart of numerous applications, catalysis research is a highly interdisciplinary field exhibiting a plethora of concepts, approaches and facets. Correspondingly, the "Catalysis by Design" approach requires a multidisciplinary approach. The KCC is structured to host and encourage the interactions of scientists specialized in disciplines relevant to catalysis.


Solutions for the 21st Century

Driven by economic and population growth, the world's demand in energy and resources will increase throughout this century. Meeting these needs will require both the development of new energy resources—especially carbon-free ones—and the efficient and environmentally responsible utilization of fossil fuels. In this context, catalysis is a critical enabling science to provide the energy for our future while preserving our environment. It is the number one technology to transform raw materials into feedstock, whether for the chemical, petroleum or the newly emerging energy industry. Catalysis is also a main tool for the organic synthesis of bio-active molecules, including medicaments for pharmaceutical industry. Development of new catalytic processes across the chemical, pharmaceutical, petroleum and new energies industries will increase both availability and efficient utilization of resources and energy, resulting in the reduction of wastes and overall environmental footprints. Catalysis is one of the most promising tools for sustainable development and green chemistry.

The center will develop new catalysts, new catalytic reactions and new catalytic technologies that are crucial to meet the challenges of the 21st century's societies. 


Interdisciplinary Approach to Catalysis

The strength of the KAUST Catalysis Center is its unique combination of scientific expertise accumulated under one roof—namely homogeneous, heterogeneous, photo- and bio-catalysis, together with inorganic, organic, organometallic, polymer and theoretical chemists, reaction engineers and spectroscopists. Researchers at KCC have in-house access to a large range of techniques for the characterization of catalysts and catalytic processes at the atomic and molecular level, including liquid and solid state NMR, in situ and in operando IR, Raman, X-ray spectroscopy, electron and atomic force microscopy XPS, and EXAFS. XANES, electron microscopies, is available through collaboration with Argonne National Laboratories.


A network of strong partners 

The center has established close relationship with several world-leading universities, institutes and industrial partners. Students and post–doctoral fellows can visit any of these partner laboratories to address specific research problems or start collaborations. This is a important policy of KCC that should become a hub in the catalysis community. In some cases, a double degree program has been established; for example, KCC has established a program with Technische Universität München (TUM). This means that master or PhD students can spend part time in Munich and part time in KAUST and obtain a double degree.