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Centre for Catalysis Research

Catalysts are of crucial importance to the (petro-)chemical industry as these materials are essential for mediating more than 90% of all industrial chemical processes worldwide. 

Research in the Centre for Catalysis Research covers all of catalyst synthesis and modification, physico-chemical characterisation and testing under industrially relevant conditions.

The unit is the leading research group in catalysis in South Africa and comprises eight academics, six permanent support staff, five in-service trainees and over 25 postgraduate students studying for MSc(Eng), MSc(Applied Science) and PhD degrees. The unit enjoys excellent relations with similar academic groups in Europe, North America and Asia as well as substantial co-operation with domestic and international industry.

The Centre hosts the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Catalysis in South Africa. Here the focus is on opportunities relevant to South Africa and the continent that also support the country’s international competitiveness. Ten higher education institutions are participating in its scientific programme. The Centre for Catalysis Research also supports of the Centre of Excellence in Catalysis, headed by Professor Jack Fletcher.

Major fields of study within the unit include:

  • Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis, specifically the understanding, at both the fundamental and applied level, of the chemical transformations occurring during catalysis as well as the development of improved catalysts for this key process in the domestic chemical industry.
  • Shape Selective Acid Catalysis, including acid-catalysed conversions over zeolites and zeotypes. Modification of the shape selective properties of these materials is a key technology applied within the Unit both to catalytic reactions and separation processes.
  • Hydrocracking of Fischer-Tropsch wax and paraffinic model compounds over base metal and noble metal/zeolite catalysts
  • Catalysis by gold, involving the preparation and characterisation of supported gold-based materials and their performance for catalysed chemical transformations, particularly the water-gas shift conversion.