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An International Assessment of
Research in
Catalysis by Nanostructured Materials

Final Report

The WTEC expert panel's final report of its international assessment of catalysis by nanostructured materials is available for download in low-resolution PDF format as well as available for download in color PDF format
(Note: Color download will take longer than low-res).

Catalysis by Nanostructured Materials Workshop

A panel of experts discussed current directions in Catalysis by Nanostructured Materials in a public workshop after completing a study initiated by the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) and other U.S. Government agencies to examine the worldwide status and trends in this field. This free workshop was held from 8:30am till 4:00pm on November 29, 2007 at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)'s L. William Seidman Center at Virginia Square located at 3501 Fairfax Drive in Arlington, Virginia ..


Catalysis at the Nanoscale

 A workshop sponsored by NSF in Arlington, VA, June 19-20, 2003, reported on “Future Directions in Catalysis: Structures that Function on the Nanoscale.”  The report from that workshop summarizes the opportunities for catalysis as follows:

Recent advances in the synthetic methodologies used to control nanometer-sized assembly, analytical methodologies employed to identify and probe structure at the nanometer length scale, and predictive capabilities used to provide guiding principles of nanometer scale structure/property relationships suggest that the synthesis of new catalysts with unprecedented control of the structure at the nanometer length scale is likely in the near future.  Additionally nanofabrication methods have developed to the point where size, shape and functionality of materials can be controlled at the length of tens of nanometers.  Thus, catalytic systems that will allow control over multiple length scales, spanning the atomic, molecular and nanometer scales, are on the near horizon.  The unprecedented control of structure and composition will lead to unprecedented control over reaction efficiencies and selectivities.”1

Catalysts may be considered “the engines that power the world at the nanometer length scale”.  In economies such as the U.S., catalyst technologies contribute to products with annual sales of over $1 trillion.2    Because of their role in improved materials, energy efficiency, pollution control, soil fertilization, and the general environment for human life, catalysts are prime examples of nanotechnology.

The grand challenge that was enumerated from the workshop was:

To control the composition and structure of catalytic materials over length scales from 1 nanometer to 1 micron to provide catalytic materials that accurately and efficiently control reaction pathways.
In order to accomplish the grand challenge research is needed to satisfy issues and needs in:

In addition, efforts will need to be cross-disciplinary; and human resource needs through education must be met.

Need for an International Assessment

The NSF workshop noted that cross-disciplinary, collaborative science is accomplished more readily in the European infrastructure.  And the U.S. might benefit from collaborative interactions with European nations and other nations in developing catalysis by nanostructured materials.

Although the U.S. was dominant in catalysis research and related fields in the 1980s, many university, government, and industry research centers in Europe have been accomplishing excellent progress in the field.  U.S. research may lag the Europeans in some areas.  The Netherlands has at least three strong centers for catalysis research.  Other noted institutes and centers are in Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and the U.K.

Japanese research has been emphasizing catalysis for improvement of the environment, particularly photocatalysis for removal of airborne pollutants; and has particular competitive strength for developing the catalytic components of nano-devices such as biosensors.

The European Union and the Japanese government are investing millions of dollars in research to be competitive in the arena of nanotechnology, of which catalysis is an important part.  These common programs tend to foster joint exploration at the cutting edge and collaborative research efforts may result in larger mutual benefits. 

A preliminary bibliometric study of the Science Citation Index by WTEC suggests that in the area of catalysis by nanostructured materials that Europe and Asia contribute as many papers as the U.S. with China’s contribution growing rapidly.


The main purpose of this study is to gather information and disseminate it to government decision-makers and the research community on worldwide status and trends in catalysis research.  The study panelists will gather information on research in catalysis by nanostructured materials useful to the U.S. government in its own R&D programs, and to critically analyze and compare the research in the United States with that being pursued in Japan and Europe.  This information will serve the following purposes:


Catalysis research has been reinvigorated in many areas in response to the high general interest in nanotechnologies and the maturing of both analytical and computational methods.  In many instances catalyst design has matured to enable prediction of characteristics prior to synthesis.  Tailored nano-environments have been an ever-increasing focus in the field with implications for specific enhancements depending on the size or chemistry of the reactants. 

The following are general objectives of the study:

At the sponsors meeting on 31 October 2006, there was general agreement on the following emphasis for the study.  This organization may be further refined at the forthcoming meeting of the study chair with the sponsors and at the kickoff meeting with the complete panel.  Reference 1, the NSF Workshop Report, has some further discussion of these topics.


NSF Workshop Report on “Future Directions in Catalysis: Structures that Function on the Nanoscale,” NSF Headquarters, Arlington, VA, June 19-20, 2003, Davis, M., Chair, Tilley, Don, Co-Chair.

1.   Page 7
2.   Page 15


[photo: Robert Davis]
Robert Davis
(Panel Chair)
Vadim Guliants
Vadim Guliants
  • Professor, Chemical Engineering Program
  • Chemical & Materials Engineering
    University of Cincinnati
    497 Rhodes Hall, ML0012
    Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0012
  • Web: http://alpha.che.uc.edu/matcat
[photo: George Huber]
George Huber
[photo: Rob Lobo]
Raul Lobo
[photo: Matt Neurock]
Matt Neurock
[photo: Jeffrey Miller]
Jeffrey T. Miller
  • BP Corporation
  • 150 West Warrenville Road
    PO Box 3011
    Naperville, IL 60566-7011
[photo: Renu Sharma
Renu Sharma
Levi Thompson
Levi Thompson