Catalytic conversion of biomass derived molecules over metal organic frameworks for the sustainable and renewable production of chemicals and fuels

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Catalytic synthesis of value-added chemicals from renewable biomass or biomass-derived platform chemicals is an important way to reduce current dependence on fossil-fuel resources and reduce the carbon footprint of chemical industry. In this regard, heterogeneously catalysed reactions will play a major role in the processing of the platform molecules to valuable chemicals, biofuel and biopolymer precursors by means of aqueous-phase processing and environmentally sound methodologies. A simple and efficient process for conversion to useful chemicals and fuels offers significant potential to deliver economic, environmental and societal impact. New catalysts need to be developed and their role in these catalytic processes need be fully understood in order to develop more economical processing routes competitive enough to replace the current crude oil based industrial production processes. The aim of this project is to devise and develop new catalytic architectures with desired functional chemical groups. In this project we will follow a novel bottom up approach for catalyst development; we will examine the required catalytic reaction, and design and develop novel chemical architectures with desired functional groups. Our particular focus will be on the oxidation reactions in biomass conversion. Catalytic oxidation of biomass can lead to multiple products, and the challenge is to direct the reaction pathways to the desired products. Biomass derived compounds, such as 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) has hydroxyl groups and their oxidation lead to the formation of carboxylic acids; an important precursor to replace the PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastics. The aqueous phase conversion of biomass compounds into valuable organic acids can be achieved, but a step change is required to broaden the scope of this chemistry and improve product yield. The current processes work in dilute solutions, require high catalyst loadings and employ high alkaline conditions. Our novel bottom up approach will identify the transition metal cations and coordinate them in well-defined high crystalline metal organic frameworks to oxidise the biomass-derived compounds into their organic acid counterparts. Developing stable metal organic frameworks with oxidation and reduction (redox) capability in aqueous phase is an unexplored chemistry. We will combine fundamental science with engineering studies in an integrated approach, to develop a detailed fundamental understanding of the catalytic chemistry that is practical and easily applicable. Experimental studies will deliver fundamental understanding of new catalysts and processes and a detailed fundamental understanding of the chemistry will support development of improved technology. The experimental approach will build on our experience and expertise of design of catalysts with controlled composition, morphology and structure. Detailed catalyst characterisation, both ex situ and in situ, will provide essential information on catalyst structure and chemical properties. The catalytic results will feedback to the material synthesis in an iterative fashion to optimise and fine-tune the materials properties for an efficient process. Final stage in the project will be the economic analysis for a scale up of the process from laboratory to industrial application. This project is in line with the EPSRC theme of Physical sciences and the research area of Catalysis.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509796/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1917327 Studentship EP/N509796/1 02/10/2017 30/09/2021 Thomas William CHAMBERLAIN