Vienna young Scientists Symposium
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Catalysis pervades the global economy and plays a central role in the production of fuels, chemicals, plastics, foods, and pharmaceuticals. While the catalyst industry is worth some $15 billion annually, the total value of products reliant on at least one catalysed reaction exceeds $15,000 billion per annum. This extremely large number is difficult to comprehend, and it is perhaps easier to appreciate the importance of catalysis when we know that ≈80% of everything produced, anywhere in the world, undergoes at least one catalysed step in its manufacture. Even minor improvements in catalytic performance have major cost saving implications, and developing more energy efficient, greener catalysts is a major challenge for the scientific community in these times of dwindling natural resources and heightened environmental concerns. As we transition from our reliance on fossil fuels to a future based on renewable energy, the importance of photo-, electro-, metal-, organo-, and biocatalysis will continue to grow as many energy capture and storage technologies involve the conversion of renewable energy sources into chemical energy.

One of the major challenges today is that the best catalysts always tend to be expensive, they lack operational stability, are often unselective and accessibility is limited. A good catalyst is cheap, highly active and can be reused as many times as possible. Furthermore, it would be appreciable if a novel catalyst for a given reaction can be rationally designed, based on fundamental understanding of their mechanism to avoid tedious experimental work like the classical trial and error approach.

For example, in metal catalysis many catalysts are composed of rare and expensive metals like platinum and iridium. It would be advantageous if we could discover new catalysts based on earth abundant materials. In biocatalysis, the production, isolation and purification of an enzyme is quite elaborate and waste intensive. Furthermore, the operational space is rather limited to a small set of reaction conditions.

This symposium covers all catalysis research performed at TU Wien. At one end of the research spectrum, there are those very close to industrial applications fighting to achieve vital improvements in activity and selectivity, and at the other end, there is much fundamental research into how materials interact with reactants at the atomic scale. Today, theory is more and more involved in discovering mechanisms in catalysis, and there is an increasing attempt to screen potential catalysts for important reactions computationally. By its very nature, catalysis sits at the border of physics and chemistry, and addresses the Computational Science, Materials and Matter, and Energy and Environment focus areas. As such, we welcome and invite contributions from diverse research fields and all Faculties at TU Wien involved in catalysis research.