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New laboratory to help chemical revolution

Posted on 19 April 2010

A major new suite of laboratories, to be opened this week, will help scientists in the Green Chemistry group at the University of York to advance research into clean synthesis, catalysis, novel materials and the application of renewable resources.

The Green Chemical Technology Facility, which will be opened on 21 April, is jointly funded by the Wolfson/Royal Society and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme in Yorkshire and The Humber and houses the latest equipment to expand enabling research in:

  • Biomaterials – Using nature’s largest volume materials - from starches to straws - in applications ranging from general purpose boards to switchable adhesives (enabling easy recovery of components at end-of-life) and bio-derived catalysts
  • Clean Synthesis and Platform Molecules - Developing new  greener routes to molecules  including the use of new reusable catalysts and safer solvents enabling the conversion of new bio-feedstocks into genuinely green and sustainable products
  • Biorefinery Microwave Demonstrator - Studying the effects of microwaves on compounds for the selective conversion of biomass into valuable chemicals, materials and fuels
  • Centre for CO2 Applications - Using liquid and supercritical CO2 as an alternative to conventional organic solvents in a wide range of applications including extraction and fractionation of botanical materials, reactions with conventional or bio-catalysts, product cleaning and production of micro-particles.

These technologies will allow us to further our research and help us to accelerate the next chemical revolution.

Professor James Clark

The new laboratory will house key enabling technologies including the biorefinery microwave demonstrator that will be constructed as part of the facility, along with supercritical fluid extraction and reaction systems, and associated analytical equipment.

Professor James Clark, Director of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: “These technologies will allow us to further our research and help us to accelerate the next chemical revolution. We are working towards the aim of switching to a bio based economy through the development of new carbon efficient sources of energy, and green and sustainable supply chains for chemicals based on platform molecules and clean synthesis.”

The semi-scale biorefinery is one component of a major project application made by Science City York in partnership with the University of York and the Food and Environment Research Agency.  The partnership secured £19.7 million of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme in Yorkshire and The Humber.  The funding will be used to develop  new infrastructures to stimulate R&D and improve regional competitiveness in the life sciences, biotechnology and environmental sectors.

Professor Nicola Spence, Chief Executive Officer at Science City York, said: “This exciting new facility will provide new technologies to research how to produce energy and high value chemicals from biorenewable materials. It is part of a broader strategy to place York as a National leader in Low Carbon research and development. The facility will also be important to regional and National businesses in the growing biorenewables sector."

Notes to editors:

  • Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence

The Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York is a world leading research centre which aims to promote the development and implementation of green and sustainable chemistry and related technologies into new products and processes. The Centre is associated with or administers a number of green chemistry activities in the areas of research, industrial collaboration, the development of educational and promotional materials and networking both with academia and industry. More information at .

  • Science City York
    • Science City York (SCY) is successfully driving the creation and growth of business and employment opportunities across York and North Yorkshire within three fast-growing technology sectors – bioscience, the creative industries, and IT & digital.
    • Investing in science/business initiatives such as infrastructure, demonstrators and joint ventures
    • Brokering research-company relationships
    • Managing and enhancing industry-driven sector networks
    • Delivering and coordinating inspiring science and technology-based festivals and events
    • Established in 1998 as a partnership between City of York Council and The University of York with significant backing from business.
    • Contact Science City York, Enterprise House, Innovation Way, Heslington, York, YO10 5NY. Tel: 01904 870040, Email:
  • Regional ERDF Programme
  • The regional ERDF Programme in Yorkshire and The Humber, approved in December 2007 was launched in February 2008.
    • The programme is managed on behalf of a regional partnership including the National Government, European Commission and Regional bodies.
    • The programme provides €583 million from the European Regional Development Fund to invest in the region’s economic development by 2013 with €271m for South Yorkshire and €312m for the rest of the region. South Yorkshire has extra resources to help with its transition from its earlier Objective 1 status.
    • Further information about the ERDF Programme in Yorkshire and The Humber is available at
  • European Regional Development Fund
    • The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was set up in 1975 to stimulate economic development in less prosperous regions of the European Union (EU) and to act as a significant instrument with which the EU can support its Cohesion Policy.
    • As EU membership has grown, ERDF has developed into a major instrument for helping to redress regional imbalances. The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) manages ERDF in England.
    • Between 2007 and 2013, England benefits from an investment of €3.2 billion (approx £2.5 bn) of ERDF. It is delivered by regional programmes in each English region, managed by the Regional Development Agency. England also receives €177 million ERDF for two national cross-border co-operation programmes with France, Flanders and the Netherlands and another €193.8 million is available to the United Kingdom for participating in three trans-national co-operation programmes across the North West Europe, North Sea and Atlantic areas.
    • ERDF is directed at projects offering substantial benefits which meet the needs of an area and would not take place without a grant. It is used to provide help towards the project costs with grants set at a minimum level required to allow the project to go ahead. As a general rule, however, the EU contributes no more than 50% of the eligible cost with the rest of the funding, known as ‘match funding’ coming from other public sources.
    • Further information about the European Union’s support for regional policy, including ERDF, is available at

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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