Graham Hutchings

Lecture given by 2021 Michel Boudart Award in Fundamental Catalysis recipient Graham Hutchings, introduced by Bert Weckhuysen

hutchingsGraham Hutchings, an alumnus of University College London (UCL, United Kingdom), is currently affiliated at Cardiff University (United Kingdom) as a Regius Professor. He has been the founding Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, which he has been heading in the period 2008-2019. The combination of industrial and academic experiences in both the UK (ICI, Universities of Liverpool and Cardiff) and South Africa (AECI Ltd and University of Witwatersrand) has given Professor Graham Hutchings a research perspective that has enabled him to engage with complex catalysis problems, study them with ingenuity, and provide practical solutions through advances in basic science.

Graham Hutchings is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking fundamental work on gold catalysis. In 1985 he predicted gold to be the best catalyst for acetylene reactions, subsequently confirming this experimentally. He remains a pioneer of field of gold catalysis and continues to play a leading role in the discovery of nano-gold catalysts for new applications. The work of his research group on gold catalysis has enabled the commercialisation of gold as a catalyst for vinyl chloride production by acetylene hydrochlorination (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 14548-14557) replacing a highly polluting mercury catalyst. Working in collaboration since 2007 with Johnson Matthey enabled the commercialisation of the catalyst. Using advanced characterisation, his research group confirmed the nature of the active site as supported fully dispersed gold cations, which is consistent with his original 1985 prediction (Science 2017, 355, 1399-1402). Replacing the mercury catalyst that has been used commercially for decades has enabled the Minimata Convention ( to become international law in May 2017 ensuring that mercury can no longer be used in any application.

In addition to his original and impactful work on gold, he has modified the properties of gold catalysts by alloying this noble metal with other metals. Notably his group has shown that supported gold-palladium alloys are highly effective solid catalysts for a range of technically demanding chemical reactions. Examples include selective methane oxidation to methanol (Science 2017, 358, 223-226) and hydrogen peroxide synthesis (Science 2016, 351, 965-968). He has recently used these materials for water purification and is now interested in combining bio- and chemocatalysis for new applications (Nat. Commun. 2019, 10, 4178).

Professor Hutchings is a highly recognized scholar in the field of catalysis, and received many national and international scientific honors and awards. He also has done a number of outreach activities and services to the catalysis community and has kept the United Kingdom at the forefront of catalysis research over the years and is very well connected within Europe and worldwide. His lectures are outstanding and he is able to reach and captivate the younger generations. His services to the field are diverse, impactful and highly appreciated within the scientific community.

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