5
Findings and Recommendations

The present study demonstrates that catalysis is a critical technology underlying two of the largest industries in the United States, the chemical and petroleum processing industries, and is a vital component of a number of the national critical technologies identified recently by the 1991 Report of the National Critical Technologies Panel. Catalysis is also shown to be essential for most modern, cost-and energy-efficient means of environmental protection and for the production of a broad range of pharmaceuticals. The impact of catalysis on the nation's economy is clearly evident from the fact that catalytic technologies generate sales in excess of $400 billion per year and a net positive balance of trade of $16 billion annually.

Although the chemical industry in the United States remains strong, it faces increasing competitive challenges from the European Community and Japan, and in fact, the three largest chemical companies are no longer based in the United States but rather in Germany. Growing recognition that environmental protection must be achieved at all stages of the production, use, and disposal of chemicals represents a second major challenge. Added to this is the continuing challenge to find economically efficient, and environmentally acceptable, means of producing transportation and heating fuels from petroleum and other fuel resources.

As detailed in this report, catalysis will play a vital role in addressing each of the three challenges cited above. The development of low-cost, environmentally benign methods for producing chemicals requires the discovery and development of new catalysts. The reduction of toxic emissions from stationary sources requires the development of cost-efficient catalytic processes. The production of polymers and pharmaceuticals, molecularly designed to achieve specific applications, will depend on new catalysts.



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Catalysis Looks to the Future 5 Findings and Recommendations The present study demonstrates that catalysis is a critical technology underlying two of the largest industries in the United States, the chemical and petroleum processing industries, and is a vital component of a number of the national critical technologies identified recently by the 1991 Report of the National Critical Technologies Panel. Catalysis is also shown to be essential for most modern, cost-and energy-efficient means of environmental protection and for the production of a broad range of pharmaceuticals. The impact of catalysis on the nation's economy is clearly evident from the fact that catalytic technologies generate sales in excess of $400 billion per year and a net positive balance of trade of $16 billion annually. Although the chemical industry in the United States remains strong, it faces increasing competitive challenges from the European Community and Japan, and in fact, the three largest chemical companies are no longer based in the United States but rather in Germany. Growing recognition that environmental protection must be achieved at all stages of the production, use, and disposal of chemicals represents a second major challenge. Added to this is the continuing challenge to find economically efficient, and environmentally acceptable, means of producing transportation and heating fuels from petroleum and other fuel resources. As detailed in this report, catalysis will play a vital role in addressing each of the three challenges cited above. The development of low-cost, environmentally benign methods for producing chemicals requires the discovery and development of new catalysts. The reduction of toxic emissions from stationary sources requires the development of cost-efficient catalytic processes. The production of polymers and pharmaceuticals, molecularly designed to achieve specific applications, will depend on new catalysts.

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Catalysis Looks to the Future The panel has also shown that through the use of modern analytical and theoretical techniques, scientific investigation of catalysis has led to an unprecedented understanding of catalysts and catalytic processes at the molecular level. These investigations have opened the door to a detailed understanding of structure-function relationships and of the effects of reaction conditions on the structure and composition of catalysts. The advent of supercomputers and improved theoretical methods is rapidly enabling the simulation of many aspects of catalysis. Taken together, these advances have contributed to making catalysis less an art and more a science, and have assisted and accelerated the process of developing new catalysts for industrial applications. The strong position in catalytic science and technology held by the United States is the result of past investments made by both industry and the government. Recent years have seen a decrease in the rate of investment by industry—particularly in ongoing, long-range, fundamental and exploratory research programs—as a consequence of competitive pressures, corporate mergers, and placement of resources in business ventures outside the central activities of the industry. Concurrently, government has maintained a relatively constant dollar investment in catalysis, but inflation and rising overhead costs have eroded the purchasing value of these funds. The net result is that the United States has lost momentum just at the moment that it must face a significant number of challenges and opportunities. To take advantage of these opportunities, careful attention must be given to effective use of the nation's resources, so that the United States can maintain its leadership role. The balance of this chapter presents specific recommendations for action by industry, academe, the national laboratories, and the federal government. INDUSTRY As detailed in Chapter 2, substantial opportunities exist for developing new processes and products, pending the development of as yet unavailable catalytic technologies. It is important to note that these new, economically favorable catalytic processes, once developed, will be adopted globally, providing long-range economic benefits to the originating company and country. Given these opportunities, combined with the challenges of utilizing new raw materials (e.g., methane and coal) and protecting the environment, industry should strive to readjust the balance internally or externally between long-and short-range research. Internally, this would be facilitated by long-range business and technology planning, technology forecasting and trend analysis, a more stable commitment to strategic projects, joint development and joint venture programs with other companies for risk sharing, and high-quality project selection and evaluation methodologies.

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Catalysis Looks to the Future Turning to external ways for industry to redress the balance between short-and long-term research, the panel notes that many of the challenges faced by industry will require additional advances in the science of catalysis, as well as advances in instrumentation. Given the current cost of conducting research in industry, opportunities exist for developing meaningful collaborative programs in partnership with academic and national laboratory researchers. To achieve this goal two elements are recommended as essential: Enhanced appreciation by academic researchers of industrial technology. Vehicles for this include long-term consulting arrangements involving regular interactions with industrial researchers, sabbaticals for industrial scientists in academic or government laboratories, sabbaticals for academic or government scientists in industrial laboratories, industrial internships for students, industrial postdoctoral programs, and jointly organized symposia on topics of industrial interest. Increased industrial support of research at universities and national laboratories. Vehicles for this include research grants and contracts; unrestricted grants for support of new, high-risk initiatives; and leveraged funding (e.g., support of the Presidential Young Investigators program.) ACADEMIC RESEARCHERS Over the past 25 years, academic researchers have made major contributions to understanding the structure of catalysts and the relationships between structure and function. These efforts have also resulted in the development of new instrumental and theoretical techniques, many of which now find application in industrial laboratories. As discussed in Chapter 3, progress in catalyst science must be sustained to provide the basis for future developments in catalyst technology and for the continuing supply of men and women educated in the scientific principles that underlie catalysis. The panel, therefore, makes the following recommendations to the academic community: A materials-focused approach is needed to complement the existing strong efforts on understanding and elucidating cata-

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Catalysis Looks to the Future lytic phenomena. More emphasis should be placed on investigation of the optimized design and synthesis of new catalytic materials, in addition to the study of existing ones. It must be kept in mind that a new material deserves consideration as a potential catalytic material only after its successful use as a catalyst, or as a component of such. Further advancement should be made in the characterization of catalysts and the elucidation of catalytic processes, particularly under reaction conditions; existing studies of structure-function relationships should be continued and expanded to focus on catalysts relevant to applications with major potential. Academic researchers should develop cooperative, interdisciplinary projects, or instrumental facilities, in which researchers from a range of disciplines work on various aspects of a common goal, as exemplified by programs carried out in NSF-supported Science and Technology Centers. Academic researchers should be encouraged to work collaboratively on projects with industry that are aimed at enabling the development of catalyst technology through the application of basic knowledge of catalysts and catalytic phenomena. Academic institutions should ease their patent policies with respect to ownership and royalties, to facilitate greater industrial support of research. NATIONAL LABORATORIES National laboratories have been organized around large-scale, national issues requiring high-technology, focused, team-oriented work, often combined with the ability to take major risks in an economically shielded environment. These laboratories are truly national resources. They have been highly effective in developing novel instrumentation for catalyst characterization, operating large-scale user facilities (i.e., synchrotron radiation sources, pulsed neutron sources, and atomic resolution microscopes), and applying the most advanced experimental and theoretical techniques to study structure-function relationships critical for understanding catalysis at the molecular level. Given the wealth of resources at the national laboratories, major opportunities exist for advancing catalyst science and technology through research carried out in collaboration with industry and academe. To achieve this goal, national laboratories are encouraged to undertake joint research projects with industry focused on developing a fundamental understanding of the structure-property relationships of industrially relevant catalysts and

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Catalysis Looks to the Future catalytic processes, and on using such understanding for the design of new catalysts for major new process opportunities; continue the development of novel instrumentation for in situ studies of catalysts and catalytic phenomena; place greater emphasis on the systematic synthesis of new classes of materials of potential interest as catalysts; and investigate novel catalytic approaches to the production of energy (e.g., light-assisted catalytic splitting of water), the selective synthesis of commodity and fine chemicals, and the protection of the environment. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The principal sources of funding for university and national laboratory research on catalysis are the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). As noted in Chapter 4, constant-dollar funding from these agencies, together with inflation and rising overhead costs, has caused a decrease in the number of young scientists being educated in the field of catalysis. The panel also observes that with the decline in emphasis on alternative fuels, research in catalysis has become increasingly diversified and less aligned along national interests. To offset these trends, the panel recommends that federal agencies: establish mechanisms for reviewing their programs related to catalysis, to ensure that they are balanced and responsive to the needs of the nation and to the opportunities for accelerating progress; encourage industry to assist the funding agencies in identifying important fundamental problems that must be solved to facilitate the translation of new discoveries into viable products and processes; assessment of the fundamental research needs of industry should be communicated to all members of the catalysis community; and increase the level of federal funding in support of catalysis research by at least a factor of two (after correction for inflation) over the next five years. This recommendation is consistent with the Bush administration's proposal to double the NSF budget over the next five years and with a recent statement by Frank Press, president of the National Academy of Sciences, that doubling the research budgets of all federal agencies should be a goal for the 1990s. Recognizing the need for federal agencies to maintain flexibility and to encourage creative scientists who propose to explore new directions and ideas, the panel recommends that priority be given to the following five areas:

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Catalysis Looks to the Future Synthesis of new catalytic materials and understanding of the relationships between synthesis and catalyst activity, selectivity, and durability. Development of in situ methods for characterizing the composition and structure of catalysts, and structure-function relationships for catalysts and catalytic processes of existing, and potential, industrial interest. Development and application of theoretical methods for predicting the structure and stability of catalysts, as well as the energetics and dynamics of elementary processes occurring during catalysis, and use of this information for the design of novel catalytic cycles and catalytic materials and structures. Investigation of novel catalytic approaches for the production of chemicals and fuels in an environmentally benign fashion, the production of fuels from non-petroleum sources, the catalytic abatement of toxic emissions, and the selective synthesis of enantiomerically pure products. Provision of the instrumentation, computational resources, and infrastructure needed to ensure the cost-effectiveness of the entire research portfolio.

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