Project Details


The research aims at elucidating the underlying principles behind solvation effects that govern the reaction rates, selectivity and stability of catalysts in biomass conversion reactions. The interest in understanding solvation effects during biomass processing arises from the fact that the conversion of highly reactive and functionalized molecules, such as biomass derived intermediates, can be influenced by the solvent surrounding the homogeneous and/or heterogeneous active site(s). The complexity of these systems demands a paradigm shift and a transformative approach towards greater flexibility, where catalysts and solvents are studied simultaneously in one single optical reactor in a time- and spatially-resolved manner under realistic operating conditions. The proposed integrated framework focuses on the glucose isomerization reaction, which is considered the major bottleneck in the catalytic conversion of cellulosic biomass to biofuels and chemicals. The development of this framework can render solvent and catalyst selection rational and predictable and will have a tremendous impact on various disciplines and industries.The main research objective of this project is to investigate the active site(s) in a catalyst and elucidate the underlying mechanisms in biomass reactions by means of operando spectroscopy. The proposal aims to address the fundamental challenges associated with implementing the concept of catalytic bio-refineries. Despite their profound effect on catalyst performance, solvent-solute-catalyst interactions are currently poorly understood. The proposed work will focus on the design and development of a versatile prototype multi-spectroscopic optical cell-reactor that allows the generation of catalytic performance data similar to those achieved with conventional catalytic liquid phase reactors. This reactor will be utilized to study glucose isomerization reaction under real working conditions by coupling, for the first time in biomass processing, Reaction Induced Difference Infrared Spectroscopy (RIDIS) and Raman spectroscopy. The proposed research may provide molecular-level information on structure-function relationships in biomass conversion reactions. The proposed integration of research and education aims at creating an intellectually stimulating environment for training students on catalysis ad reaction engineering. The proposed outreach plan is targeting students from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented populations in STEM fields.
Effective start/end date9/1/178/31/20


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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