Entry Date:
January 19, 2017

Molecular Catalysis for Waste Valorization

Principal Investigator Yuriy Román

Project Start Date January 2015

Project End Date
 December 2019

This project is aimed at advancing the use of abundant domestic energy sources for liquid transportation fuels and chemicals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving the utilization of renewable carbon. The PI proposes to valorize biomass-derived waste streams, a long-standing challenge in the chemical/biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass. The approach uses a coupled synthetic and reaction engineering approach to develop catalytic materials capable of selectively upgrading waste biomass fractions and links advanced synthesis and characterization techniques with rigorous reactivity measurements. Catalyst design efforts are focused on reducible and tunable metal oxides that feature the appropriate properties required to upgrade complex macromolecules at scale. Prior results from the PI's group have shown that such catalysts are capable of breaking targeted C-O bonds of oxygenates with high specificity without saturating C-C double bonds. The PI aims to bridge the existing gap between model compounds and real streams by studying macromolecules of increasing complexity. The proposed work is based on the analysis of numerous scenarios for the integration of waste products into various fuel and chemical streams in a biorefinery with maximum economic benefit. Ultimately, the goal is to devise a catalytic toolbox that can be used to maximize carbon efficiency, product yields, and catalyst longevity during waste conversion, thereby improving current state-of-the-art valorization methods. When taken together, these solutions represent a tipping point in the prospects for specific biomass waste as a viable, commercially relevant sustainable feedstock.