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Portrait of Professor Rob Brown Professor Rob Brown | 01484 473397


I graduated from the University of Birmingham with BSc(Hons) Chemistry in 1973, and the University of Leicester with a PhD in physical chemistry in 1977. I worked in industry for two years and then held teaching posts at Illinois State University and the University of Houston. I returned to the UK in 1987 and was Senior Lecturer/Principal Lecturer at Leeds Polytechnic before joining the University of Huddersfield in 1997.

I teach in areas across physical chemistry, and on the Science Foundation Year. My research interests are in catalysis, solid acids, solid bases and porous solids, biofuels, adsorption and calorimetry.

I am the Director of the Materials and Catalysis Research Centre in the Department of Chemical and Biological Sciences. Enquiries about the activities of the Centre and opportunities in it are very welcome. I have a number of administrative responsibilities, mainly to do with research and research student training, in the Department, in the School and more widely across the University.

Research and Scholarship

Our main interests are in solid acid catalysts, particularly as replacements for homogeneous acid catalysts in liquid phase processes. We have published over sixty papers and review articles in this area.

Many liquid phase processes in fine chemical synthesis currently use homogeneous catalysts. While very effective, these catalysts are often difficult to separate from the reaction products and the separation processes result in a great deal of effluent. The use of solid catalysts in these reactions reduces this waste and reduces the environmental impact of the processes. The challenge is to design solid catalysts with activities high enough to justify their use as replacements for homogeneous catalysts.

We are working on solid acid catalysts as replacements for homogeneous acid catalysts AlCl3, H2SO4 etc. in Friedel-Crafts and other acid-catalysed reactions. Our interests are in: modified clay mineral catalysts, functionalised mesoporous molecular sieve materials, supported heteropolyacids, non-rigid acid catalysts (polymer-supported acids) and others.

Our interest is in the structure/function relationship in these materials, since improved understanding will lead to improved catalyst design. Since 1997 we have given increasing emphasis to the use of calorimetric adsorption techniques for the characterisation of catalytic materials and adsorbents in ways that can be used to predict their performance and so inform further development. Techniques in which probe molecules are adsorbed from the gas phase on dry catalyst, and from the liquid phase on solvated catalysts (isothermal titration calorimetry) have been developed and are now used routinely in our labs.

Over the past five years we have added calorimetric adsorption techniques based on flow systems. These allow us to study the kinetics as well as the thermodynamics of adsorption. They also permit the study of competitive adsorption so that catalysts can be studied under realistic conditions. The levels of detail available from these techniques on both the thermodynamics and the kinetics of catalyst adsorption processes are unique in the UK. We use the techniques to study materials prepared in our own labs as well as catalysts and adsorbents prepared by others, through an increasing number of collaborative projects with academic and industrial groups.

We welcome enquiries from those interested in our work.

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Osastiashtiami, A., Lee, A., Granollers, M., Brown, D., Olivi, L., Morales, G., Melero, J. and Wilson, K. (2015) ‘Hydrothermally Stable, Conformal, Sulfated Zirconia Monolayer Catalysts for Glucose Conversion to 5-HMFACS Catalysis , 5 (7), pp. 4345-4352.

Al-Shafei, E., Katikaneni, S., Choi, K. and Brown, D. (2015) ‘Direct Reaction of CO2 with C-H Bond Activation of Methane to Produce Chemicals’. In: 24th Annual Saudi-Japan Symposium on Catalysts in Petroleum Refining and Petrochemicals 2014. : King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. pp. 58-62. ISBN 9781634399487

Beerthuis, R., Granollers, M., Brown, D., Salavagione, H., Rothenberg, G. and Shiju, N. (2015) ‘Catalytic acetoxylation of lactic acid to 2-acetoxypropionic acid, en route to acrylic acidRSC Advances , 5 (6), pp. 4103-4108. ISSN 2046-2069

Elmekawy, A., Sweeney, J. and Brown, D. (2015) ‘Efficient synthesis of supported proline catalysts for asymmetric aldol reactionsCatalysis Science & Technology , 5 (2), pp. 690-696. ISSN 2044-4753


Aburass, A., Yangchun, G., Tie, W., Fengshou, G., Ball, A. and Brown, D. (2014) ‘Investigation of the Effect of Biodiesel Blends on Fuel Injection Pumps based on Vibration and Pressure Measurements’. In: VETOMAC-X 2014, 9-11th September 2014, Manchester Conference Centre (Days Hotel), University of Manchester, UK , p. 10

Motara, H., Mistry, D., Brown, D., Cryan, R., Nigen, M. and Page, M. (2014) ‘pH and basicity of ligands control the binding of metal-ions to B. cereus B1 ?-lactamaseChemical Science , 5 (8), pp. 3120-3129. ISSN 2041-6520

Morales, G., Osatiashtiani, A., Hernández, B., Iglesias, J., Melero, J., Paniagua, M., Brown, D., Granollers, M., Lee, A. and Wilson, K. (2014) ‘Conformal sulfated zirconia monolayer catalysts for the one-pot synthesis of ethyl levulinate from glucoseChemical Communications , 50 (79), pp. 11742-11745. ISSN 1359-7345

Ikhlaq, A., Brown, D. and Kasprzyk-Hordern, B. (2014) ‘Catalytic ozonation for the removal of organic contaminants in water on ZSM-5 zeolitesApplied Catalysis B: Environmental , 154, pp. 110-122. ISSN 09263373

Elmekawy, A., Shiju, N., Rothenberg, G. and Brown, D. (2014) ‘Environmentally Benign Bifunctional Solid Acid and Base CatalystsIndustrial & Engineering Chemistry Research . ISSN 0888-5885

Osatiashtiani, A., Lee, A., Brown, D., Melero, J., Morales, G. and Wilson, K. (2014) ‘Bifunctional SO4/ZrO2 catalysts for 5-hydroxymethylfufural (5-HMF) production from glucoseCatalysis Science & Technology , 4 (2), pp. 333-342. ISSN 2044-4753


Abuhabaya, A., Fieldhouse, J. and Brown, D. (2013) ‘The optimization of biodiesel production by using response surface methodology and its effect on compression ignition engineFuel Processing Technology , 113, pp. 57-62. ISSN 0378-3820

Carà, P., Pagliaro, M., Elmekawy, A., Brown, D., Verschuren, P., Shiju, N. and Rothenberg, G. (2013) ‘Hemicellulose hydrolysis catalysed by solid acidsCatalysis Science & Technology , 3 (8), pp. 2057-2061. ISSN 2044-4753

Ikhlaq, A., Brown, D. and Kasprzyk-Hordern, B. (2013) ‘Mechanisms of catalytic ozonation: An investigation into superoxide ion radical and hydrogen peroxide formation during catalytic ozonation on alumina and zeolites in waterApplied Catalysis B: Environmental , 129, pp. 437-449. ISSN 0926-3373

Abuhabaya, A., Fieldhouse, J. and Brown, D. (2013) ‘Influence of production variables for biodiesel synthesis on yields and fuel properties, and optimization of production conditionsFuel , 103, pp. 963-969. ISSN 0016-2361


Brown, D. and Andrijanto, E. (2012) ‘New Microporous Polystyrene Sulfonic Acid Catalyst for Free Fatty Acid Esterification’. In: IEX 2012 The International Ion Exchange Conference, 19-21 September 2012, Queens' College, Cambridge

Cross, H., Parkes, G. and Brown, D. (2012) ‘Microwave calcination of Cu/Mg/Al hydrotalcite catalyst precursorApplied Catalysis A: General , 429/30, pp. 24-30. ISSN 0926860X

Ikhlaq, A., Brown, D. and Kasprzyk-Hordern, B. (2012) ‘Mechanisms of catalytic ozonation on alumina and zeolites in water: formation of hydroxyl radicalsApplied Catalysis B: Environmental , 123/4, pp. 94-106. ISSN 09263373

Nair, G., Adrijanto, E., Alsalme, A., Kozhevnikov, I., Cooke, D., Brown, D. and Shiju, N. (2012) ‘Glycerol utilization: solvent-free acetalisation over niobia catalystsCatalysis Science & Technology , 2 (6), pp. 1173-1179. ISSN 2044-4753

Andrijanto, E., Dawson, E. and Brown, D. (2012) ‘Hypercrosslinked polystyrene sulphonic acid catalysts for the esterification of free fatty acids in biodiesel synthesisApplied Catalysis B: Environmental , 115-6, pp. 261-268. ISSN 09263373


Shiju, N., Alberts, A., Khalid, S., Brown, D. and Rothenberg, G. (2011) ‘Mesoporous Silica with Site-Isolated Amine and Phosphotungstic Acid Groups: A Solid Catalyst with Tunable Antagonistic Functions for One-Pot Tandem ReactionsAngewandte Chemie International Edition , 50 (41), pp. 9615-9619. ISSN 14337851

Shiju, N., Alberts, A., Khalid, S., Brown, D. and Rothenberg, G. (2011) ‘Mesoporous Silica with Site-Isolated Amine and Phosphotungstic Acid Groups: A Solid Catalyst with Tunable Antagonistic Functions for One-Pot Tandem ReactionsAngewandte Chemie , 123 (41), pp. 9789-9793. ISSN 00448249

Abuhabaya, A., Fieldhouse, J. and Brown, D. (2011) ‘The Effects of Using Bio-diesel as Fuel on Compression Ignition (CI) Engine and Its Production from Vegetable Oils’. In: Proceedings of 2011 International Conference on Environmental, Biomedical and Biotechnology (IPCBEE). Singapore: International Association of Computer Science and Information Technoloyg (IACSIT). pp. 41-46. ISBN 978-981-08-9168-8

Raveendran Shiju, N., Yoshida, K., Boyes, E., Brown, D. and Gai, P. (2011) ‘Dynamic atomic scale in situ electron microscopy in the development of an efficient heterogeneous catalytic process for pharmaceutical NSAIDSCatalysis Science & Technology , 1 (3), pp. 413-425. ISSN 2044-4753


Abuhabaya, A., Fieldhouse, J. and Brown, D. (2010) ‘Evaluation of Properties and use of waste vegetable oil (WVO), pure vegetable oils and standard diesel as used in a compression ignition engine’. In: Future Technologies in Computing and Engineering Annual Researchers' Conference (CEARC'10). University of Huddersfield, Computing and Engineering Annual Researchers’ Conference 2010: The University of Huddersfield. pp. 71-76. ISBN 9781862180932

Cross, H. and Brown, D. (2010) ‘Entrained Sodium in Mixed Metal Oxide Catalysts Derived from Layered Double HydroxidesCatalysis Communications , 12 (3), pp. 243-245. ISSN 1566-7367

Shiju, N., Brown, D., Wilson, K. and Rothenberg, G. (2010) ‘Glycerol Valorization: Dehydration to Acrolein Over Silica-Supported Niobia CatalystsTopics in Catalysis , 53 (15-18), pp. 1217-1223. ISSN 1022-5528

Dacquin, J., Cross, H., Brown, D., Duren, T., Williams, J., Lee, A. and Wilson, K. (2010) ‘Interdependent lateral interactions, hydrophobicity and acid strength and their influence on the catalytic activity of nanoporous sulfonic acid silicas Green Chemistry , 12 (8), pp. 1383-1391. ISSN 1463-9262

Abuhabaya, A., Fieldhouse, J. and Brown, D. (2010) ‘Variation of Engineering Performance and Emissions using Biodiesel Fuels’. In: 2nd International Conference on Nuclear and Renewable Energy Sources, 4th-7th July 2010, Ankara, Turkey , pp. 580-585

Montero, J., Brown, D., Gai, P., Lee, A. and Wilson, K. (2010) ‘In situ studies of structure–reactivity relations in biodiesel synthesis over nanocrystalline MgOChemical Engineering Journal , 161 (3), pp. 332-339. ISSN 1385-8947

Bandyopadhyay, M., Shiju, N. and Brown, D. (2010) ‘MCM-48 as a support for sulfonic acid catalystsCatalysis Communications , 11 (7), pp. 660-664. ISSN 1566-7367

Yoshida, K., Shiju, N., Brown, D., Boyes, E. and Gai, P. (2010) ‘Double aberration-corrected TEM/STEM of tungstated zirconia nanocatalysts for the synthesis of paracetamolJournal of Physics: Conference Series , 241 (1), p. 012035. ISSN 1742-6596


Shiju, N., Williams, H. and Brown, D. (2009) ‘Cs exchanged phosphotungstic acid as an efficient catalyst for liquid-phase Beckmann rearrangement of oximesApplied Catalysis B: Environmental , 90 (3-4), pp. 451-457. ISSN 0926-3373

Siril, P., Shiju, N., Brown, D. and Wilson, K. (2009) ‘Optimising Catalytic Properties of Supported Sulfonic Acid CatalystsApplied Catalysis A General , 364 (1-2), pp. 95-100. ISSN 0926-860X

Pesaresi, L., Brown, D., Lee, A., Montero, J., Williams, H. and Wilson, K. (2009) ‘Cs-doped H4SiW12O40 catalysts for biodiesel applicationsApplied Catalysis A General , 360 (1), pp. 50-58. ISSN 0926-860X

Shiju, N., AnilKumar, M., Hoelderich, W. and Brown, D. (2009) ‘Tungstated Zirconia Catalysts for Liquid-Phase Beckmann Rearrangement of Cyclohexanone Oxime: Structure-Activity RelationshipThe Journal of Physical Chemistry C , 113 (18), pp. 7735-7742. ISSN 19327447


Brown, D. and Siril, P. (2008) ‘Enhanced Acidic and Catalytic Properties of Modified Polystyrene Sulfonic Acid Resins’. In: IEX 2008 Conference, 6-11 July 2008, Cambridge, UK , pp. 435-442

Kooli, F., Liu, Y., Alshahateet, S., Siril, P. and Brown, D. (2008) ‘Effect of pillared clays on the hydroisomerization of n-heptane Catalysis Today , 131 (1-4), pp. 244-249. ISSN 0920-5861

Siril, P., Cross, H. and Brown, D. (2008) ‘New polystyrene sulfonic acid resin catalysts with enhanced acidic and catalytic properties Journal of Molecular Catalysis A: Chemical , 279 (1), pp. 63-68. ISSN 1381-1169


Siril, P., Davison, A., Randhawa, J. and Brown, D. (2007) ‘Acid strengths and catalytic activities of sulfonic acid on polymeric and silica supportsJournal of Molecular Catalysis A: Chemical , 267 (1-2), pp. 72-78. ISSN 1381-1169

Narasimharao, K., Brown, D., Lee, A., Newman, A., Siril, P., Tavener, S. and Wilson, K. (2007) ‘Structure–activity relations in Cs-doped heteropolyacid catalysts for biodiesel productionJournal of Catalysis , 248 (2), pp. 226-234. ISSN 00219517


Siril, P. and Brown, D. (2006) ‘Acid site accessibility in sulfonated polystyrene acid catalysts: Calorimetric study of NH3 adsorption from flowing gas stream Journal of Molecular Catalysis A: Chemical , 252 (1-2), pp. 125-131. ISSN 1381-1169

Lapkin, A., Savill-Jowitt, C., Brown, D. and Edler, K. (2006) ‘Microcalorimetric Study of Ammonia Chemisorption on H3PW12O40 Supported onto Mesoporous Synthetic Carbons and SBA-15Langmuir , 22 (18), pp. 7664-7671. ISSN 0743-7463

Newman, A., Brown, D., Siril, P., Lee, A. and Wilson, K. (2006) ‘Structural studies of high dispersion H3PW12O40/SiO2 solid acid catalysts Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics , 8, pp. 2893-2902. ISSN 1463-9076


Koujout, S. and Brown, D. (2005) ‘Calorimetric base adsorption and neutralisation studies of supported sulfonic acidsThermochimica Acta , 434 (1-2), pp. 158-164. ISSN 0040-6031

Felix, S., Savill-Jowitt, C. and Brown, D. (2005) ‘Base adsorption calorimetry for characterising surface acidity: a comparison between pulse flow and conventional “static” techniques Thermochimica Acta , 433 (1-2), pp. 59-65. ISSN 0040-6031


Koujout, S. and Brown, D. (2004) ‘The influence of solvent on the acidity and activity of supported sulfonic acid catalystsCatalysis Letters , 98 (4), pp. 195-202. ISSN 1572-879X

Hart, M. and Brown, D. (2004) ‘Surface acidities and catalytic activities of acid-activated claysJournal of Molecular Catalysis A Chemical , 212 (1-2), pp. 315-322. ISSN 13811169


Fesenko, E., Barnes, P., Parkes, G., Brown, D. and Naderi, M. (2003) ‘Application of SCTA to the study of the reactivity of acid-base catalystsJournal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry , 72 (3), pp. 1103-1105. ISSN 14182874

Fraile, J., Garcia, J., Mayoral, J., Salvatella, L., Vispe, E., Brown, D. and Fuller, G. (2003) ‘Experimental and theoretical studies on structure-reactivity relationships of titanium-modified silicas in the hydrogen peroxide-promoted oxidation of cyclohexeneThe Journal of Physical Chemistry B , 107 (2), pp. 519-526. ISSN 15206106

Koujout, S., Kiernan, B., Brown, D., Edwards, H., Dale, J. and Plant, S. (2003) ‘The nature of the internal acid solutions in sulfonated poly(styrene-co-divinylbenzene) resinsCatalysis Letters , 85 (1-2), pp. 33-40. ISSN 1572-879X

Koujout, S. and Brown, D. (2003) ‘Supported sulfonic acid catalysts in aqueous reactions’. In: Catalysis in Application. London, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry. pp. 178-185. ISBN 978-0-85404-608-9


Pickett, J., Naderi, M., Chinn, M. and Brown, D. (2002) ‘The adsorption and decomposition of cyanogen chloride by modified inorganic molecular sievesSeparation Science and Technology , 37 (5), pp. 1079-1093. ISSN 0149-6395

Naderi, M., Pickett, J., Chinn, M. and Brown, D. (2002) ‘Modified mesoporous silicates for the adsorption and decomposition of toxic gasesJournal of Materials Chemistry , 12 (4), pp. 1086-1089. ISSN 1364-5501

Naderi, M., Dale, J., Parkes, G. and Brown, D. (2002) ‘Solvation of exchangeable cations in sulfonated polystyrene ion-exchange resins: an ESR studyReactive and Functional Polymers , 51 (1), p. 25. ISSN 1381-5148


Hart, M., Fuller, G., Brown, D., Dale, J. and Plant, S. (2001) ‘Sulfonated poly(styrene-co-divinylbenzene) ion-exchange resins: acidities and catalytic activities in aqueous reactionsJournal of Molecular Catalysis A Chemical , 182-183 (1-2), pp. 439-445. ISSN 1381-1169

Hart, M., Fuller, G., Brown, D., Park, C., Keane, M., Dale, J., Fougret, C. and Cockman, R. (2001) ‘Acidities and catalytic activities of persulfonated poly(styrene-co-divinylbenzene) ion-exchange resinsCatalysis Letters , 72 (3/4), pp. 135-141. ISSN 1011372X

Barnes, P., Fesenko, E., Parkes, G., Brown, D. and Naderi, M. (2001) ‘A new approach to the study of the reactivity of solid-acid catalysts: the application of constant rate thermal analysis to the desorption and surface reaction of isopropylamine from NaY and HY zeolitesJournal of Physical Chemistry B , 105, pp. 6178-6185. ISSN 1089-5647

Edwards, H., Brown, D., Dale, J. and Plant, S. (2001) ‘Raman spectroscopic studies of acid dissociation in sulfonated polystyrene resinsJournal of Molecular Structure , 595 (1-3), pp. 111-118. ISSN 00222860

Fraile, J., Garcia, J., Mayoral, J., Vispe, E., Brown, D. and Naderi, M. (2001) ‘Is MCM-41 really advantageous over amorphous silica? The case of grafted titanium epoxidation catalystsChemical Communications (16), pp. 1510-1511. ISSN 1364-548X

Michalik, J., Brown, D., Yu, J., Danilczuk, M., Kim, J. and Kevan, L. (2001) ‘Conduction electron paramagnetic resonance of metal nanoparticles in AlMCM-41 aluminosilica mesoporous molecular sievesPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics , 3 (9), pp. 1705-1709. ISSN 14639076


Edwards, H., Brown, D., Dale, J. and Plant, S. (2000) ‘Raman spectroscopy of sulfonated polystyrene resinsVibrational Spectroscopy , 24 (2), pp. 213-222. ISSN 09242031

Research Degree Supervision

Supported Acid Catalysts

We will use siliceous ordered mesoporous molecular sieve materials and disordered silica gels as supports for acid catalysts. We will concentrate on supported sulfonic acids. We will prepare a range of these materials, using various supports and methods of functionalisation. Catalyst acidities will be characterised by adsorption calorimetry, and activity in a range of test reactions. The objective will be to identify the structural features in these materials which control catalytic activity and can be optimised to prepare catalysts for specific reactions.

Solid Base Catalysts

The objective will be to study a range of solid base catalysts using adsorpion calorimetry with suitable acidic probe molecules, and to link the function of these materials to their basic properties and structures. Catalytic properties will be tested in model reactions. Initially, we plan to concentrate on layered double hydroxides and the mixed oxides which arise from their calcination. There are many variables to investigate in the composition and preparation of these catalysts and we hope to develop a model relating basic and catalytic properties to structural properties and synthetic routes/compositions.

Catalysts based on Clay Minerals

Expanding clays such as montmorllinites will be characterised as the basis for acid catalysts. Materials will be characterised by base adsorption calorimetry and other spectroscopic techniques. We are particularly interested in incorporation of lanthanide metal ions with a view to generating strong Lewis acid catalysts, and these properties will be tested in suitable reactions. The objective is to develop an understanding of the way in which clay-based catalysts can deliver Lewis acidity and Lewis acid catalysis.

Basic catalysts for applications in bio-fuel synthesis

A range of basic catalysts will be charaterised by adsorption calorimetry and tested in the ester hydrolysis and transesterification reactions associated with the generations of biofuels from triglycerides. We will start with hydrotalcite materials and their calcination products, and move on to other mixed and single oxides. The objective will be to link structural properties to basicity and to activity in these reactions. It is hoped that this project will lead to collaboration within the Department over the application of the same catalysts to the degradation of lignin-type compounds, reactions with potentially greated importance than those of triglycerides.

Last updated Monday 12 October 2015
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