Biomass and Natural Gas Valorization by Zeolite Catalysis

Meeting Program — February 2017

Raul Lobo
Raul Lobo
Claire D. LeClaire pro­fes­sor of Chem­i­cal and Bio­mol­e­c­u­lar Engi­neer­ing,
Uni­ver­si­ty of Delaware


Abstract — Prof. Lobo’s research group is inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing and under­stand­ing catal­y­sis sys­tems to enable the trans­for­ma­tion abun­dant, inex­pen­sive and—when possible—renewable car­bon sources into feed­stocks for the chem­i­cal indus­try. We com­bine exper­tise in mate­ri­als syn­the­sis, catal­y­sis and kinet­ics, and reac­tion engi­neer­ing to devel­op nov­el cat­a­lysts and cat­alyt­ic process­es that pro­duce valu­able prod­ucts.

In the first part I will focus on C-C bond form­ing reac­tions that are help­ful in the trans­for­ma­tion of furans (pro­duced from glu­cose or xylose by dehy­dra­tion) into valu­able com­mod­i­ty chem­i­cals. To this end we have devel­oped and opti­mized zeo­lite cat­a­lyst com­po­si­tions to form aro­mat­ic species out of the furans via Diels-Alder reac­tions and Friedel-Craft acy­la­tion reac­tions. We will describe efforts to pro­duc­ing ben­zoic acid and α-methyl­styrene from furans in high selec­tiv­i­ty and high yield, along with the elu­ci­da­tion of the reac­tion mech­a­nisms of these reac­tions.

In the sec­ond part I will dis­cuss on-going research direct­ed towards the devel­op­ment of cat­a­lysts for the selec­tive oxi­da­tion of methane into methanol. We will show that zeo­lites can serve as hosts of tran­si­tion met­als oxide clus­ters (cop­per or iron) that are anal­o­gous to met­al oxide clus­ters observed in a num­ber of impor­tant enzymes such as par­tic­u­late methane monooxy­ge­nase (pMMO). These clus­ters are capa­ble of oxi­diz­ing methane to methanol, car­bon monox­ide and CO2. By selec­tive­ly choos­ing mate­ri­als that com­part­men­tal­ize Cu-O clus­ters, we have iden­ti­fied zeo­lite struc­tures that are able to selec­tive­ly oxi­dize methane to methanol with very high selec­tiv­i­ty in a three-step cyclic process. We will describe the poten­tial and the draw­backs of trans­form­ing such cyclic process into a cat­alyt­ic process for methanol pro­duc­tion.

Despite the matu­ri­ty of the field of catal­y­sis this talk will show that tan­ta­liz­ing new oppor­tu­ni­ties emerge from the dis­cov­ery of new cat­a­lyst struc­tures and com­po­si­tions, and from improve­ments in our con­trol of the com­po­si­tion of met­al clus­ters in nanoscop­ic envi­ron­ments.

Biog­ra­phy — Raul F. Lobo is the Claire D. LeClaire pro­fes­sor of Chem­i­cal and Bio­mol­e­c­u­lar Engi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Delaware and Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Cat­alyt­ic Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy. His research inter­ests span the devel­op­ment of nov­el porous mate­ri­als for catal­y­sis and sep­a­ra­tions, the chem­istry of zeo­lites, catal­y­sis for ener­gy and the envi­ron­ment, and the sci­en­tif­ic aspects of cat­a­lyst syn­the­sis. He has pub­lished over one hun­dred fifty ref­er­eed reports and he is co-inven­tor in three US patents. He obtained his under­grad­u­ate degree in Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cos­ta Rica in 1989 and lat­er moved to Cal­i­for­nia to pur­sue grad­u­ate stud­ies in Chem­i­cal Engi­neer­ing at Cal­tech. He worked for one year at Los Alam­os Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, New Mex­i­co as a post­doc­tor­al fel­low and he start­ed his aca­d­e­m­ic career at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Delaware in 1995.

Prof. Lobo has con­duct­ed research in the use of zeo­lites for nitrogen/oxygen sep­a­ra­tions, and car­bon diox­ide sep­a­ra­tions from flue gas­es. He has con­tributed to the fun­da­men­tals of zeo­lite nucle­ation and crys­tal growth and to the appli­ca­tion of zeo­lites for a num­ber of cat­alyt­ic appli­ca­tions. In par­tic­u­lar his group research helped under­stand the mech­a­nisms of reac­tion and sta­bil­i­ty of zeo­lite cat­a­lysts used for the removal of NOx gas­es from com­bus­tion exhaust, devel­oped cat­alyt­ic mate­ri­als for the trans­for­ma­tion of bio­mass-derived furans into com­mod­i­ty aro­mat­ic mol­e­cules such as xylenes and ben­zoic acid and dis­cov­ered mate­ri­als for the selec­tive acti­va­tion of methane using cop­per oxide clus­ters.