Catalytic cages to catalytic nanosheets: Catalysing reactions in water

Grantham Scholar Alana Barlow’s research is on speeding up the breakdown of insecticides used in agriculture, which is naturally very slow. 

The project

My project focuses on developing new catalytic systems based on metal organic cages and nanosheets for the hydrolysis of toxic organophosphate molecules to harmless products. More specifically, the research will be targeted towards the breakdown of insecticides used in agricultural settings, as their degradation rate is naturally very slow.

Finding a way to promote this breakdown will therefore have a positive effect on sustainable consumption and production patterns. Furthermore, these reactions are to be carried out in water, working towards reducing the need for environmentally damaging organic solvents. This will contribute to limiting water pollution and therefore keep it as a safe, renewable resource for both wildlife and humanity.

Overall, the supramolecular catalysts designed would provide a pathway to the decontamination of water polluted with such organophosphates, whilst ensuring that they are able to operate under mild conditions, are recyclable, and will work efficiently to reduce the environmental impact of these commonly used, harmful molecules.