Dr. Cynthia M. Friend of Harvard University is supported by the Chemical Catalysis Program in the Division of Chemistry to chair a workshop on defining critical directions for the future of chemical catalysis. The workshop will be co-chaired with Dr. Hector D. Abruna of Cornell University and Dr. Melanie S. Sanford of the University of Michigan. The workshop will draw together a diverse group of established and emerging leaders in catalysis in order to articulate the grand challenges and future directions in this area of research. The workshop will address the role of catalysis in advancing the national need for sustainability. Chemical catalysis plays a central role in energy, such as in the production of renewable fuels, manufacturing, such as in the synthesis of chemical, pharmaceuticals and materials, and environmental sustainability, such as in carbon dioxide conversion, pollution control and remediation. The workshop proceedings and conclusions will be disseminated to the scientific community through a website and a workshop report.

Project Report

Catalytic chemistry plays a vital role in the world economy since it is a key technology for chemical and materials synthesis, fuel production, energy generation, and conversion and environmental remediation. Catalysis research is a major driver for the development of sustainable processes for fuel production and for synthesis of materials and chemicals. Among the critical technologies that rely on catalysis are effi cient synthesis of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, biomass conversion to fuels and platform chemicals, and production of materials for solar energy utilization, storage, and energy-effi cient consumer and building products. Fundamental understanding of all areas of catalysis—homogeneous, heterogeneous, biological, photochemical, and electrochemical—is needed to develop more sustainable processes. The new alignment of programs within the Chemistry Division at the National Science Foundation (NSF) recognizes the central role of catalysis by establishing a new program to keep our nation’s effort at the forefront of catalysis research. Senior program offi cers in the Chemistry Division at NSF proposed having a workshop in conjunction with the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting held in Denver, Colorado in August 2011 of leaders in the fi eld of catalysis to identify future challenges and new opportunities for this fi eld. Through a series of presentations, extended discussions and working group meetings, the workshop attendees made the following recommendations for the Catalysis (CAT) program and Chemistry Division at NSF. Recommendations Derived from the Workshop: 1. Robust funding for the NSF CAT program is critical to maintaining the nation’s competitiveness. Th e workshop participants strongly endorsed having this program’s funding refl ect the full breadth of research areas in catalysis and focus on support of fundamental research. 2. NSF CAT program should support postdoctoral fellowships that will allow researchers to gain experience across the areas of catalysis and provide supplemental funding to grants in the program to promote collaboration across the program. 3. An annual Catalysis Workshop sponsored by the NSF should be held in conjunction with one of the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meetings to further build stronger ties across the catalysis community. 4. Funding by the NSF Chemistry Division of 1-3 Regional Instrumentation Centers ($20 M capital investment, $5 M/yr for operational support) that would off er needed state-of-the-art instrumentation to support catalysis research for the nation is proposed. 5. Given that catalysis plays such a vital role in many key processes, the workshop participants suggested the NSF CAT offi cers continue to work across divisions and directorates at NSF, such as any new sustainability initiative, to garner additional support for activities including postdoctoral fellowships or joint workshops. With strong support for basic research in catalysis, U.S. leadership in this essential fi eld will continue to advance. Th e investment in students associated with this eff ort is also crucial to the development of the next generation of well-trained chemists in this area who represent the future scientifi c capital for the country. Th ese recommendations focus on ensuring U.S. leadership in this intellectually exciting fi eld that is technologically and economically vital to the nation.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Chemistry (CHE)
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Carol Bessel
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Harvard University
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