Thrust 3: Chemical Catalyst Design

CBiRC has assembled a world-class team of scientists that are well known for their work on catalysis and catalyst engineering. The team is focused on developing chemical catalysis platform technologies with the aim of engineering perfected processes. The team focuses on selective catalysis and stability to create a catalytic toolbox.

Participating faculty:

  1. Robert J. Davis (Thrust Leader), Chemical Engineering, University of Virginia
  2. Brent H. Shanks (Thrust Co-Leader), Chemical & Biological Engineering, Iowa State University
  3. Linda Broadbelt, Chemical & Biological Engineering, Northwestern University
  4. Abhaya K. Datye, Chemical & Biological Engineering, University of New Mexico
  5. James A. Dumesic, Chemical Engineering, University of Wisconsin – Madison
  6. George A. Kraus, Chemistry, Iowa State University
  7. Matthew Neurock, Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, University of Minnesota
  8. Klaus Schmidt-Rohr, Chemistry, Brandeis University
  9. Jean-Philippe Tessonnier, Chemical & Biological  Engineering, Iowa State University

Overview of technologies:

Catalytic reactions are typically controlled by chemical processes that take place at various length scales. Moreover, complex couplings can take place between these processes, leading to potentially synergistic effects. Accordingly, an understanding of such couplings is essential for “catalytic reaction synthesis,” which is the identification, development, and optimization of catalytic reactions for new applications, especially those applications that are not simple variations of known catalytic reactions, such as developing new catalytic reactions for production of chemicals and fuels from renewable biomass resources. Important couplings in catalytic reaction synthesis for biomass conversion are expected to be: (1) functional coupling at the active site level; (2) kinetic coupling between active sites in the same reactor; (3) chemical coupling between surface reactions and homogeneous reactions for liquid-phase processes; and (4) thermodynamic and transport coupling between multiple phases (e.g., gas, aqueous, organic liquid, and solid catalyst phases) in complex reactors.

Thrust 3 projects:

Project Lead Project Title Project Goals
Brent Shanks, Iowa State University Selective Dehydration of Model Compounds Biorenewable feedstocks have excess oxygen relative to the amount typically present in industrial chemicals. Dehydration is an important reaction for the removal of oxygen, but limited work has been performed on selective dehydration in the presence of additional functionality in the reactant. An important goal in developing a catalytic “tool chest” for biorenewable chemicals will be demonstration of effective selective dehydration catalysts.
Bob Davis, University of Virginia Deoxygenation of Fatty Acids The overall goal of this work is the selective catalytic deoxygenation of fatty acids to useful compounds by the selective decarbonylation/decarboxylation of biomass derived lactones and carboxylic acids and the selective hydrogenolysis of fatty acids to produce fatty alcohols.
Jim Dumesic, University of Wisconsin–Madison Ring Opening Reactions The overall goal of this work is to develop catalysts for the selective hydrogenolysis of heterocyclic compounds derived from biomass and to understand what controls the selectivity in these reactions.
Abhaya Datye, University of New Mexico Hydrothermally Stable Catalysts and Catalyst Supports The objective of this project is to develop catalysts and catalyst supports with improved hydrothermal stability in aqueous phase reactions for biorenewable conversion processes.
George Kraus, Iowa State University Pyrone Conversions This project will develop efficient pathways to convert pyrones into industrial chemicals bearing an aromatic ring such as terephthalic acid.
Bob Davis, University of Virginia Selective Oxidation to Di-acids The goal of this work is to understand the factors controlling the activity, selectivity and stablility of heterogeneous catalyts for the selective oxidation of bi-functional molecules to produce di-acids.
Linda Broadbelt, Northwestern University Computational Discovery and Analysis of Catalytic Routes to Biobased Renewable Chemicals The objective of this project is to explore computationally potential chemical targets that can be produced using a combined biological and chemical catalysis platform. A computational platform will be used to map chemical space given a variety of different starting molecules and operators that encode typical catalytic reactions. Chemical networks of potential new intermediates that connect biology and chemical catalysis and their diversified set of products will be identified.