Industrial catalyst technologies affect nearly all areas of the chemical and petroleum industries, and the economic impact of catalysis has been estimated to be over 10 trillion dollars per year worldwide. Furthermore, catalyst technologies have an integral part in some of our most important pollution control and environmental cleanup processes, including the reduction of harmful automobile emissions by catalytic converters.
Because of its substantial impact on the global economy, catalysis remains an active and vital area of research and development (R&D), with many scientific and engineering journals and conferences devoted to discussion of the latest results. New and improved catalytic materials and processes are being developed to attain more rapid reaction rates using milder, less energy-intensive reaction conditions, and for enhanced selectivity to produce the desired reaction products with minimal waste byproducts. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has a longstanding interest in catalysis and continues to support catalysis R&D through the national laboratories, including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Our catalysis research takes advantage of the historical emphasis on chemistry and chemical engineering at the Laboratory. Programs include biomass conversion, environmental catalysis, microchannel reactors for fuel and chemical production, and surface science studies of catalysts. Alongside these experimental efforts, computational chemistry is a core-competency that is poised to be a world-leading resource for catalysis research and development.
Among the synergies of catalysis R&D in the IIC with other programmatic activities at PNNL, the nanoscience and nanotechnology areas, as well as the presence of DOE's user facility, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) are especially important to our success.