Bioenergy seminar: New Catalytic Approaches for the Production of Renewable Fuels and Chemicals

Seminar hosted by the Department of Energy and Environmental Systems and the NSF CREST Bioenergy Center:

Title: Process Development and Design of New Catalytic Approaches for the Production of Renewable Fuels and Chemicals

Where and when: Thursday, February 6, 11 a.m. to noon, New Science Building, Room 200

All EES CREST and Sustainable Bioproducts students must attend this seminar.  Others are welcome as well to hear this accomplished catalysis engineer and scientist.

Dr. George W. Huber


Speaker: Dr. George W. Huber, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Huber’s research focus is on breaking the chemical and engineering barriers to lignocellulosic biofuels.  He is the co-founder of Anellotech, a biofuel company focused on commercializing catalytic fast pyrolysis, a new technology developed by Dr. Huber’s research group to convert biomass into gasoline-range aromatics.  His discovery of Raney-NiSn catalyst for hydrogen production from biomass-derived oxygenates was named as one of top 50 technology breakthroughs of 2003 by Scientific American.

Abstract: This presentation discuss different approaches for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals that are being developed in the Huber research group.  The presentation will highlight some of the challenges and future opportunities for future process development and design of new catalytic approaches.

Renewable aromatics and olefins can be produced from biomass by catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP). The aromatics can be used as a feedstock to make renewable polymers including polycarbonates, polyurethanes, polystyrenes, and polyethylene terephthalates.

CFP involves the direct production of aromatics from biomass in a single catalytic step. Solid biomass is fed into a fluidized bed reactor, where the solid biomass thermally decomposes. The biomass vapors enter a zeolite catalyst, where a series of dehydration, decarbonylation and oligomerization reactions occur to form aromatics, olefins, CO, CO2, coke and water. Coke is formed from homogeneous decomposition reactions or catalytic reactions inside the zeolite.

Fundamental catalytic studies with model compounds combined with in-situ and temperature-programmed techniques have aided in the design of improved zeolite catalysts for CFP. Hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) is a platform technology used to convert liquid biomass feedstocks (including aqueous carbohydrates, pyrolysis oils, and aqueous enzymatic products) into alkanes, alcohols and polyols. In this process the biomass feed reacts with hydrogen to produce water and a deoxygenated product using a bifunctional catalyst that contains both metal and acid sites. The challenge with HDO is to selectively produce targeted products that can be used as fuel blendstocks or chemicals and to decrease the hydrogen consumption.


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