"We discovered that the performance of the biomass reaction was strongly affected by the nanostructure of the catalyst, which we were able to optimize and achieve 75-percent yield," Fan says. Computations conducted by the team have been instrumental in understanding the reaction mechanism and the role of the catalyst as well as making alteration to the catalyst to improve the yield of the process.
Besides Dauenhauer and Fan, the research team is made up of UMass Amherst's C. Luke Williams and Chun-Chih Chang, doctoral students in chemical engineering, and their collaborators, professors Raul F. Lobo, Dionisios G. Vlachos and Stavros Caratzoulas, as well as doctoral student Nima Nikbin, and postdoctoral fellow Phuong Do from the University of Delaware.
This discovery is a part of a larger effort by the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI) to create breakthrough technologies for the production of biofuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass. The center is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) program which combines more than 20 faculty members with complimentary research skills to collaborate on solving the world's most pressing energy challenges.
The discovery for the production of plastics adds another dimension to the portfolio of accomplishments of CCEI. In 2010, a CCEI research team led by Mark Davis of Caltech discovered a new catalyst, called Tin-Beta, which can convert glucose into fructose. This is the first step in the production of a large number of targeted products including biofuels and biochemicals, including p-xylene, from the building block of cellulose, the major constituent of trees and swi
|Contact: Paul J. Dauenhauer|
University of Massachusetts at Amherst