Syngenta collaboration
09 May 2019
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Syngenta formulation scientist collaborates with CLF and University of York scientists to develop a new way of studying how catalysts work for crop protection

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Syngenta have collaborated with CLF and University of York scientists to access time-resolved spectroscopy techniques that reveal how catalysts work.

Catalysts make reactions proceed more rapidly and at lower temperatures, increasing the efficiency of the synthetic process.  Professor Ian Fairlamb and Dr Jason Lynam, working in collaboration with scientists at the Ultra laboratory at the Central Laser Facility, and Syngenta Crop Protection have pioneered a new method to study how catalysts work.​​

Chemical catalysis is a vitally important process in the preparation of plastics, materials, pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals. Approximately 80 to 90% of the products made by the chemical industry - of which the chemicals and pharmaceutical manufacturing sector has a value of £18 billion - are reliant on catalysts[1].

Syngenta crop protection products keep crops safe from attack by insects, weeds and diseases. Syngenta formulation science ensures their products are effective at very low application rates, ensuring safety.

The researchers focussed on the cheap and sustainable metal, manganese, and aimed to understand how it performs the crucial step of forming carbon-carbon bonds.  Normally it is not possible to observe these steps in a catalytic reaction as the compounds that perform them are extremely short-lived and may only be present in very small amounts.  However, the team developed an innovative method to circumvent these problems and directly observe the species responsible for the key reaction steps.

Central to the success of the approach has been the application of laser facilities at the Ultra laboratory.  The Ultra laser system was applied to a catalyst in order to activate it. This triggers the generation of substantial amounts of the catalyst intermediates so that their behaviour can be observed. This allows the reactions to be studied over a wide range of timescales, from extremely short (picoseconds) to much longer (milliseconds) – equivalent to studying events occurring from one second to over three years in a single experiment! ​

This work was supported by academic access to the Central Laser Facility.  Is it also funded by Syngenta through an EPSRC iCASE award. The research is published in Nature Catalysis (link: http​://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41929-018-0145-y )

Contact: Brenner, Ceri (STFC,RAL,CLF)