Catalysis and advanced materials

We uncover the different types of catalysis and why this process is one of our core capabilities here at JM.  

World leaders

> 60 

years' experience in catalysis

Cleaner air

20 million tonnes

of pollutants stopped by JM’s emission control catalysts each year

We're a world leader in the development and manufacture of catalysts to clean the air we breathe and make industrial processes more efficient and sustainable. We're experts across the full spectrum of catalysts, including heterogeneous catalysts, homogeneous catalysts and biocatalysts, and our customers work in industries ranging from automotive and agrochemicals to petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.

What is catalysis?

Catalysis is a process of speeding up or enabling a chemical reaction using a substance that does not undergo permanent changes during the reaction. For a reaction to take place, chemical bonds must be broken and new ones formed. This requires energy and the amount needed is called the Activation Energy. A catalyst lowers this activation energy barrier, so the molecules can react more easily. The catalyst is not used up as part of the reaction, nor does it appear as a contaminant in the product.

There are different forms of catalysts, including homogeneous, heterogeneous and bio catalysts.

Catalytic converter and catalyst

Types of catalysis

In homogeneous catalysis, the catalyst and all reacting substances are in the same single phase or state of matter. This is most commonly the liquid phase as a solution of catalyst with all reactants. 

We offer a large portfolio of innovative catalysts for a range of pharmaceutical applications including cross-coupling, asymmetric hydrogenation as well as catalyst precursors for chiral and achiral transformations. In the industrial chemicals arena, we supply homogeneous catalysts for reactions such as hydroformylation in the oxo-alcohol process, and Karstedt catalysts for hydrosilylation reactions forming silicone elastomers.

In heterogeneous catalysis, the catalyst is in a different phase from the reactants – for example a solid catalyst and a gaseous reactant. This is typical of many catalysts JM manufactures where the catalyst is coated onto a solid support such as a ceramic or carbon. For example our emission control catalysts are heterogeneous catalysts. The catalyst is coated onto a structured support and catalyses the reactions to remove harmful gases from vehicle exhausts.

Enzyme or biocatalysts are catalysts that come from living organisms such as cells or bacteria. Enzymes in our body are naturally occurring biocatalysts. At JM we use our expertise to identify and develop and manufacture enzyme based catalysis for markets such as active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and fine chemicals.

Read more on our biocatalysis capabilities

More on JM's expertise


JM has been involved in catalysis for over 60 years. Our first patents were granted in the 1960s. Then our focus was on the catalytic activity of the platinum group metals (pgms). Many of these related to heterogeneous catalysts for purifying gases or treating effluent tail gases. Now we work in all areas of catalysis and apply our deep knowledge across a wide range of activities.


Platinum has impressive catalytic abilities and precious metals form the centrepiece of many of the catalysts we produce. But our catalysts business is much more than just precious metals; we select the right material for the job in hand, resulting in a range of precious metal, base metal, organic and enzyme catalysts using our chemistry expertise to help our customers develop efficient, cost-effective processes.

To do this, we find ways to get more from precious metal catalysts by looking at how the particles are formulated and supported, we look for ways of improving the durability and performance of metal catalysts such as iron, copper and nickel and we identify biocatalysts that are fit for purpose. We also make sure that any new catalyst we develop can be manufactured at industrial scales and will fit seamlessly into our customers’ existing production processes.

Support at any stage

Because of our wide range of catalysis expertise, customers can come to us at any stage. They might want us to develop a catalyst for a completely new production process or an improved version of an existing catalyst, or they might want us to find a way to scale up the production of a catalyst they have already developed. Our expertise can be tailored to almost any requirement.

Sustainable manufacturing

Using our expertise in sustainable technologies, we developed a mercury-free catalyst to support a more environmentally friendly method of producing PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic. Our catalyst uses gold as the active component. The gold is positioned on the surface of a carbon support, allowing us to minimise the amount of gold used but make it readily available for reaction. By combining our chemistry skills and applications knowledge, we can now offer our customers a new, economically viable catalyst that offers a more sustainable route to PVC.

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