(Lecture, May 22) The Role of Liquid-phase Catalysis in Production of Renewable Biofuels and Biobased Chemicals
May 19,2017 08:35:30 readCount:271

Title: The Role of Liquid-phase Catalysis in Production of Renewable Biofuels and Biobased Chemicals
Speaker: Prof. Hongfei Lin (Washington State University)
Time: 9:30a.m., May 22nd, 2017
Venue: Room 105, Shaw Engineering Building, Wushan Campus

The market demand for renewable liquid fuels has surged in the transportation sector in the past decades. However, today the cost of liquid hydrocarbon fuels from biomass is still too high to compete with petroleum derived transportation fuels. One of the grand challenges in biofuels production is the low carbon atom efficiency to the fuel products. Herein our group has developed a novel “one-pot” biphasic tandem catalytic process (biTCP) in which terpenoids or lipids were converted into hydrocarbons at an extraordinarily high carbon efficiency.For demonstration, the mono- and diterpenoids, e.g., the biocrudes of eucalyptus and grindelia squarrosa, have been converted into cycloalkanes, which are high-density jet fuel components. In this biTCP, the homogeneous acid and the hydrophobic supported metal catalysts were partitioned into aqueous and organic solvents, respectively. This novel process was also able to efficiently convert fatty acids and triglycerides extracted from oilseed crops to renewable diesel. The reaction mechanism was investigated to gain a fundamental understanding of the effects of catalyst properties and process conditions on the conversion of the two different types of biomass feedstock. Moreover, to improve the biofuel economics, we are also exploring conversion technologies for co-producing value-added chemicals. Herein we have developed a highly efficient catalytic process to synthesize lactic acid esters, which are “green” biodegradable solvents, from cellulosic biomass in supercritical alcohol solvents. In this study, a variety of Zr-SBA-15 materials, which possess strong Lewis acid sites and weak Brønsted sites, were fabricated with tunable structures and pore sizes. The optimized Zr-SBA-15 catalyst showed excellent performance for the conversion of carbohydrates to lactic acid esters in a “one-pot” reaction system. The carbon yields of methyl lactate, up to 41 % and 44%, were produced from pentoses and hexoses, respectively. Furthermore, we first reported that ethyl lactate, up to 33% of the carbon yield, was produced directly from cellulose in the supercritical ethanol-water mixed solvents. The role of the catalyst in the retro-aldol condensation of carbohydrates, as well as the catalyst stability, was discussed.

Brief introduction to Prof. Hongfei Lin:
Dr. Hongfei Lin is an Associate Professor in the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering at Washington State University. He received his B.E and M.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering from Tsinghua University, China, and his Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from Louisiana State University in 2005.After graduation, he has been a postdoctoral fellow for two years at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He then worked in industry for three years conducting research on catalytic conversion of natural gas or biomass to liquid hydrocarbon fuels.He joined the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno as an Assistant Professor in 2010 and was promoted to the tenured Associate Professor in 2016.He then transferred to Washington State University in the same year.Dr. Lin’s current research focuses on catalysis and sustainability, with an emphasis on developing novel intensified liquid-phase catalytic processes coupled with multifunctional material systems for production of fuels and chemicals from renewable feedstocks. He has authored ~40 peer-reviewed scientific journal papers and delivered numerous presentations in conferences and research institutions. He is the international advisory board member of Energy Technology. He also served as the guest editor of the journals including Catalysis Today. He is an active member of American Chemical Society (ACS) and American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and has regularly organized symposia and conference sessions in the area of biomass conversion and CO2 utilization.

Announced by School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering