Board member news

Catalysts, clean water and pure green

I visited Professor Graham Hutchings’s Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI) this week.

The visit was truly fascinating. The research that the CCI conducts (and there are around 70 researchers in the busy labs spread across Main Building) is not just interesting, it’s ground-breaking research with real potential to save lives, improve health and clean up the environment.

I was shown how catalysts work in vehicle exhausts (an application many of us are familiar with), I learnt that catalysis technology underpins between 80-90% of all products and contributes more than £50bn a year to the UK economy. I saw a demonstration of how catalysis technology can work in washing machines instead of chemicals and (most excitingly) how it may be able to be used to clean water safely and in a fraction of the time that chemicals take.

I saw how in the search for one thing another is found and shown how rare minerals can be made. It reminded me of the role alchemy played in the development of modern science and how we are still searching for the elixir of life which is now not so much about recreating gold (or ‘pure green’ for those of you who remember the Blackadder sketch) but how it can truly save lives by purifying water or removing dangerous particles from pollutants.

What Professor Hutchings’s group does is curiosity-driven research that has led to ground-breaking discoveries that really impacts on lives and in doing so the group has generated over more than £23m in income since it was set up in 2008. It was an inspirational visit and reminded me just why universities are vital – our research makes a real difference to everyday lives, improves the health of all of us as well as contributing to the economy.

Last week, Council (the University’s governing body) gave the go ahead to build two new Innovation System buildings at our new Innovation Campus on Maindy Road. Once built the CCI will move to the Translational Research Building together with the new Compound Semiconductor Facility which, all being well, should be finished by the autumn of 2018.

The CCI is one of Cardiff’s nine University Research Institutes, if you want to know more about the others please see here.