Catalytic Processing of Biomass Derived Oxygenates: Outlook and Challenges

Dr. Ya-Huei (Cathy) Chin, Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto

15 January 2015 at 10:30

Location: JHE 326H

Pyrolysis of wood based biomass produces aldehydes, alcohols, acids, and phenols and a large amount of water, in a mixture useful as molecular building blocks for the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels and value-added chemicals. The diverse molecular structures in pyrolysis product have rendered it unstable and difficult to process, because multiple functional groups undergo concomitant chemical transformation, while polymerization and coking occur simultaneously and, as a result, a portion of the oxygenates convert to larger, inactive fractions.

This talk highlights the current challenges of utilizing wood based pyrolysis products as renewable fuels and chemicals, focusing specifically on fundamental catalytic strategies to manipulate the various reaction pathways through the design of active sites and their functions at the atomistic level. Our strategies in catalytic pathway tuning are illustrated through the selected cases of (i) control C=C bond formation of aldehydes to olefins and aromatics and (ii) control hydrogenation of C=O bond while preserving the C=C and C-C bonds. Specific focuses are on the design of solid active sites and reaction environments and their catalytic consequences. The catalytic effects of site structures are explained at the molecular levels and in terms of the ability of solid catalysts to alter the energetics of elementary steps within catalytic cycles. The molecular knowledge is essential for designing tandem reactions to efficiently shuffling hydrogen atoms and create new chemical bonds during catalytic sojourns of oxygenates contained in pyrolysis effluent to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals selectively.

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