Brown University School of Engineering

Catalyst Design through Molecular Engineering for the Production of Renewable Chemicals

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Friday, January 31, 2014 12:00pm - 1:00pm

Yuriy Román, Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In our efforts to shift away from traditional petroleum-based raw materials to supply fuels and chemicals, biomass has emerged as an attractive renewable carbon-containing feedstock. Its complex chemical diversity has created daunting challenges that require the implementation of robust, active, and selective catalysts to effectively transform it into useful products. In this lecture, new developments in the use of molecular engineering tools to synthesize rationally-designed catalysts will be highlighted. The synthesis and use of zeolites for the conversion of biomass-derived oxygenates will be presented, emphasizing how catalytic pairs can enhance activation of targeted functional groups, achieve cooperative catalysis, or promote one-pot cascade reaction sequences. Also, new directions in the use of transition heterometallic metal oxides and carbides will be described in the context of biomass hydrodeoxygenation chemistry and electrocatalysis. Bio Prof. Román was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also in Chemical Engineering, under the guidance of Prof. James Dumesic. At UW he worked on developing catalytic strategies to convert biomass-derived carbohydrates into platform chemicals. Before joining the department of Chemical Engineering at MIT as an Assistant Professor, he completed a two-year postdoc at Caltech, working with Prof. Mark E. Davis on the synthesis of zeolites and mesoporous materials for the activation of small molecules and biomass-derived oxygenates. Prof. Román’s research lies at the interface of heterogeneous catalysis and materials design. His group applies a wide range of synthetic, spectroscopic, and reaction engineering tools to study the chemical transformation of molecules on catalytic surfaces. A strong emphasis is placed on the application of catalytic materials to tackle relevant problems associated with sustainable energy, biofuels, and renewable chemicals. Current efforts are geared toward designing water-tolerant solid Lewis acids, investigating cooperative effects of catalytic pairs, and engineering two-dimensional microporous solids.