Author Archives: Carl Menning

Remembering Robert K. Grasselli: Reflections on Three Decades of Collaboration on Complex Oxides for Selective Oxidation

Meeting Program – February 2018

Doug Buttrey
Douglas J. Buttrey
Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering,
University of Delaware


Robert GrasselliAbstract – In this presentation, I will pay tribute to the late Robert K. Grasselli, a truly extraordinary scientist who served as a dedicated mentor to many industrial scientists and engineers, as well as a number of academics, such as myself. The primary focus of his research was on improving generations of complex oxide catalysts for production of acrylonitrile by ammoxidation of propylene through much of his career, and of propane in the later years. The Sohio chemical catalysis group, which Grasselli lead for many years, succeeded in developing and steadily improving the revolutionary SOHIO process for using multicomponent bismuth molybdates to produce a 50-fold increase in production of acrylonitrile, a platform chemical used for making synthetic fibers and ABS plastics. He became Senior Science Fellow at the Sohio Company in Cleveland, and ended his career there in 1985 after about 25 years of service. This was followed by 3 years as Director of the Chemistry Division at the Office of Naval Research. From there, he moved to Mobil Research and Development Corporation in Princeton, where he worked until 1995.

Robert Grasselli was inducted into the US National Academy of Engineering in 1995. In 1996, the Sohio acrylonitrile process was recognized as the 11th National Historic Chemical Landmark by the ACS. For this work, Grasselli was admitted to the US Engineering and Science Hall of Fame.

Also in 1996, Grasselli became an adjunct professor in the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology at the University of Delaware; simultaneously, he was appointed as Guest Professor of Physical and Catalytic Chemistry at the University of Munich. He developed a number of collaborations throughout the world with William A. Goddard (CalTech), Sir John Meurig Thomas (Cambridge), Arne Andersson (Lund), Johannes Lercher (Vienna and Trieste), Ferruccio Trifiro (Bologne) and many others, including myself. I will discuss our collaborative work starting with the bismuth molybdates beginning in 1984 and, from 2002 onward, on the Mo-V-Nb-Te-O bronze “M1” catalyst for ammoxidation of propane to acrylonitrile.

Biography – Douglas J. Buttrey is a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology, with an affiliated appointment in Materials Science and Engineering, at the University of Delaware. He received his PhD degree from the Purdue University in 1984, and subsequently held the Sohio Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Department of Physical Chemistry at Cambridge University in 1984-85. He was a visiting assistant professor at Purdue University with a 3-way joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry, Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the School of Materials Science and Engineering from 1986-87, before moving to the University of Delaware. He is the co-author of 100 journal publications with over 5,700 citations.

Improved methane reforming activity and coking resistance of self-regenerating Ni catalyst by Atomic Layer Deposition

Meeting Program – February 2018

Chao Lin – Student Speaker

Advisor: Raymond J. Gorte
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
University of Pennsylvania

Abstract – Perovskite-supported Ni catalysts were prepared by Atomic Layer Deposition for use in CO2 and steam reforming of methane. Thin films of CaTiO3 were grown on MgAl2O4 and used as the support. These catalysts were found to be self-regenerating following redox cycling. Activities for the ALD-prepared catalysts were higher than that observed on Ni/MgAl2O4 in both steam reforming and dry reforming. More importantly, the perovskite-supported catalysts showed minimal coking, even upon exposure to dry methane at high temperatures.

Siliceous Zeolite-supported Palladium Catalysts for Methane Oxidation

Meeting Program – January 2018

Jing Lu
Jing Lu
Staff Scientist at Clean Air Division
Johnson Matthey Inc.


Abstract – Catalytic oxidation of methane in the presence of excess of oxygen is of great interest as a practical technology to reduce methane emissions from compressed natural gas vehicles, engines, and turbines. Typical commercial methane oxidation catalysts are alumina-supported palladium catalysts. When operated at low temperatures, these catalysts exhibit rapid deactivations on stream due to water inhibition. In addition, these Pd-catalysts are sensitive to sulfur poisoning, even with the presence of a trace amount (≤ 1 ppm) of SO2 in the feed. Among other oxide materials, zeolites were also investigated as a potential support for palladium – such as the effects of frameworks and exchange or impregnation methods – but no significant benefits were discovered in the past comparing to conventional alumina-based catalysts. Here, we demonstrate the application of siliceous zeolites (i.e. SiO2-to-Al2O3 ratio (SAR) >1200) as Pd-support, the resulting catalysts exhibit significantly improved activity and on-stream durability at low temperatures, and are able to be regenerated from sulfur poisoning under realistic operating conditions.

Biography – Jing Lu received his B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from University of California, Santa Barbara. He joined Johnson Matthey in 2013 after earning a Ph.D. from University of California, Davis where he worked with Prof. Bruce Gates. Jing is currently a Staff Scientist leading the developments of selective catalytic reduction, ammonia slip control and methane oxidation catalysts for diesel and natural gas aftertreatment. He is an inventor of several patents and author of 19 journal articles.

Kinetic Peculiarities of Cu-Zeolite SCR Catalysts, and Their Practical Implications

Meeting Program – November 2017

Aleksey Yezerets
Aleksey Yezerets
Director of Advanced Chemical Systems & Integration
Cummins Inc.


Abstract – Cu-Zeolite SCR catalysts have emerged in the recent years as the leading technology for meeting the challenge of NOx reduction in diesel exhaust. Despite their excellent performance and stability characteristics, integrating this class of catalysts into an effective and durable exhaust aftertreatment system has proved non-trivial. Such systems must be capable of operating over a broad range of transient conditions, survive a variety of nominal and off-nominal aging exposures, and sustain their activity over many years of active duty. This requires a detailed understanding of the reaction mechanism and deactivation pathways, and the ability to translate those into reaction engineering guidance to system design, feedback control algorithms, and on-board diagnostics. In this presentation, we will share examples from our recent findings related to the controlling regimes of operation and to the deactivation mechanisms of Cu-Zeolite catalysts – at the level of catalyst material, chemical functions, and overall emission reduction performance in the context of a system which contains multiple catalytic elements. We will further discuss the advancements in the ability to model the behaviors of healthy and deactivated catalysts, and the respective implications to system optimization and control.

Biography – As Director of Advanced Chemical Systems & Integration with Corporate R&T Division of Cummins Inc., the world’s largest independent manufacturer of diesel engines and related equipment, Dr. Aleksey (Alex) Yezerets leads a team of experimentalists and modelers responsible for developing an understanding of the performance and deactivation of batteries, catalysts, and sensors, and for providing guidance and support to electrified and low-emission products at all stages of their lifecycles. He also coordinates a portfolio of collaborative research programs with industrial partners, National Labs, and universities. He has authored or co-authored 35 patents and 80 peer-reviewed publications, with over 2500 total citations. Alex maintains currency in his field by an active engagement in professional, editorial, and graduate education activities. His technical contributions have been recognized by awards from the Catalysis Club of Chicago, R&D100, ACS, AIChE and SAE, as well as by two Cummins Julius Perr awards for innovation. Alex has been elected an SAE Fellow.

Olefin Metathesis by Supported MoOx/Al2O3 Catalysts

Meeting Program – October 2017

Anisha Chakrabarti – Student Speaker

Advisor: Israel E. Wachs
Operando Molecular Spectroscopy & Catalysis Laboratory
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015 USA

Abstract – The olefin metathesis reaction was commercialized in the late 1960s to produce ethylene and 2-butene from propylene in the Phillips Triolefin Process. The reverse reaction, however, is currently desired due to a global propylene shortage caused by the shift to lighter feedstocks derived from shale gas fracking. Heterogeneous supported MoOx/Al2O3 catalysts are employed for olefin metathesis in the Shell Higher Olefin Process (SHOP) that operates between room temperature and ~200°C.

To probe the molecular details of the supported MoOx/Al2O3 catalysts, a modern in situ spectroscopy approach was undertaken. In situ UV-vis measurements (Eg values) confirmed the presence of isolated and oligomeric MoOx surface sites, with the latter increasing with molybdena loading. In situ Raman spectroscopy revealed that at low loadings of molybdena (<1 Mo atoms/nm2), only isolated dioxo (O=)2MoO2 surface sites are present. As the molybdena loading is increased (1-4.6 Mo atoms/nm2), oligomeric mono-oxo O=MoO4 surface sites co-exist with the isolated dioxo (O=)2MoO2 surface sites. Above monolayer loadings (>4.6 Mo atoms/nm2), crystalline MoO3 nanoparticles are also present. In situ IR indicates that the isolated dioxo MoO4 sites are anchored at more basic HO-μ1-AlIV surface hydroxyls, while the surface oligomeric mono-oxo sites are anchored to more acidic HO-μ1/3-AlV/VI surface hydroxyls. Propylene metathesis at reaction conditions suggest that the isolated dioxo (O=)2MoO2 surface site may still be present after activation of the mono-oxo surface sites with propylene. In situ UV-vis during propylene metathesis indicates that Mo+6 sites are dominant during propylene metathesis due to the presence of unreduced surface dioxo Mo+6O4 sites and re-oxidation of reduced Mo+4 sites by propylene back to Mo+6=CH2 and Mo+6=CHCH3 reaction intermediates. The surface chemistry was chemically probed by C3H6-TPSR that initially formed oxygenated products (CH3CHO, H2CO, CH3COCH3, H2O and CO/CO2) during catalyst activation. The reactivity of the activated catalysts to butene progressively increased with molybdena loading, indicating that the oligomeric mono-oxo MoOx sites are much more active than isolated dioxo MoO4 sites for olefin metathesis. The crystalline MoO3 nanoparticles, however, were found to be inactive for metathesis. This presentation will address the fundamental molecular and structural details of the supported MoOx/Al2O3 catalysts during propylene metathesis and establish their structure-activity relationships.

Converting CO2 via Thermocatalysis and Electrocatalysis

Meeting Program – October 2017

Jingguang Chen
Jingguang Chen
Thayer Lindsley Professor of Chemical Engineering
Columbia University


Abstract – Rising atmospheric concentration of CO2 is forecasted to have potentially disastrous effects on the enviroment from its role in global warming and ocean acidification. Converting CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels is one of the most practical routes for reducing CO2 emissions while fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy sector. The catalytic reduction of CO2 by H2 can lead to the formation of three types of products: CO through the reverse water-gas shift (RWGS) reaction, methanol via selective hydrogenation, and methane by the methanation pathway. In the current talk we will first describe our efforts in controlling the catalytic selectivity for the three products using a combination of DFT calculations and surface science studies over single crystal surfaces, catalytic evaluation of supported catalysts, and in-situ characterization under reaction conditions. Next, we will discuss our efforts in converting CO2 without using H2. This is motivated by the fact that ~95% of H2 is generated from hydrocarbon-based feedstocks, producing CO2 as a byproduct. We will present two approaches to avoid using H2 for CO2 conversion. The first approach involves the utilization of light alkanes, such as ethane, to directly reduce CO2 via the dry reforming pathway to produce synthesis gas (C2H6 + 2CO2 → 4CO + 3H2) and the oxidative dehydrogenation route to generate ethylene (C2H6 + CO2 → C2H4 + CO + H2O). The second approach is the electrolysis of CO2 to produce synthesis gas with controlled CO/H2 ratios. We will conclude our presentation by providing a perspective on the challenges and opportunities in converting CO2 via various routes in thermocatalysis and electrocatalysis.

Biography – Jingguang Chen is the Thayer Lindsley Professor of chemical engineering at Columbia University, with a joint appointment as a senior chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He received his PhD degree from the University of Pittsburgh and then carried out his Humboldt postdoctoral research in KFA-Julich in Germany. After spending several years as a staff scientist at Exxon Corporate Research, he started his academic career at the University of Delaware in 1998 and rose to the rank of the Claire LeClaire Professor of chemical engineering and the director of the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology. He moved to Columbia University in 2012. He is the co-author of 21 US patents and over 340 journal publications with over 15,000 citations. He is currently the president of the North American Catalysis Society (NACS) and an associate editor of ACS Catalysis. He received many catalysis awards, including the 2015 George Olah award from ACS and the 2017 Robert Burwell Lectureship from NACS.

Structure Activity Relationships in Homogeneous Catalysis

Meeting Program – September 2017

Thomas Colacot
Thomas Colacot
Technical Fellow & Global R & D Manager
Johnson Matthey


Abstract – Homogeneous catalysis is a molecular phenomenon, where the structure of the catalyst plays a significant role on the activity and selectivity of a catalytic reaction. Three cases studies will be discussed during the talk to explain the phenomena. The topics are

  1. High purity palladium acetate vs commercial in organic synthesis
  2. Ir pre catalysts for C-H activated borylation
  3. Generation of L1Pd(0) catalysts for advanced cross coupling.


  • Book: New Trends in Cross Coupling: Theory and Applications, ed. Thomas J. Colacot, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-84973-896-5
  • Carin C. C. Johansson Seechurn, Thomas Sperger, Theresa. G. Scrase, Franziska. Schoenebeck and Thomas. J. Colacot*, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017 (DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b01110). This work was featured in the April 5 th issue of C & EN. Please see:
  • William A. Carole and Thomas J. Colacot* Chem. Eur. J, 2016, 22, 7686 (with journal cover graphics – this work was featured in C & EN. page 20, May 2 nd, 2016)
  • Peter G. Gildner, Andrew DeAngelis, and Thomas J. Colacot*, Org. Lett., 2016, 18 (6), 1442–1445 DOI: 10.1021/acs.orglett.6b0037
  • William A. Carole, Jonathan Bradley, Misbah Sarwar and Thomas J. Colacot* Org. Lett., 2015, 17 (21), 5472–5475. DOI: 10.1021/acs.orglett. 5b02835
  • Thomas. J. Colacot, Angew Chem. Int. Ed. 2016, 54, 15611-15612.
  • Peter G. Gildner and Thomas J. Colacot* Organometallics, 2015, 34 (23), 5497–5508. DOI: 10.1021/acs.organomet.5b00567
  • Andrew J. DeAngelis , Peter G. Gildner , Ruishan Chow , and Thomas J. Colacot* J. Org. Chem., 2015, 80 (13), pp 6794–6813, DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.5b01005
  • Carin C. C. Johansson Seechurn, Vilvanathan Sivakumar, Deepak Satoskar and Thomas J. Colacot*, Organometallics, 2014, 33, 3514−3522.

Biography – Dr. Thomas J. Colacot received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from IIT Madras in 1989, following a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Chemistry from the University of Kerala in 1981 and 1983, respectively. After his doctoral and post-doctoral studies in the US, Dr. Colacot went on to pursue an education in management, acquiring an MBA from Pennsylvania State University in 2005, while working at Johnson Matthey. Before joining Johnson Matthey in 1995, Dr. Colacot had also worked as a Research Associate Southern Methodist University (TX, USA) on a project funded by Advanced Technology Program, as an Assistant Professor at Florida A&M University, and as a Post-Doctoral/Teaching Fellow at University of Alabama. Having climbed up the ranks from Development Associate (bench chemist), Dr. Colacot is currently the Technical Fellow at Johnson Matthey, USA, the highest technical rank for a scientist with reports from different parts of the world.

As a researcher, Dr. Colacot has focused on many areas of homogenous catalysis, particularly becoming proficient in palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling. He also has extensive experience in organometallic and organic syntheses, and in process chemistry. His work is reflected in several patents to his name, more than one hundred peer-reviewed publications, and numerous invited lectures and seminars spanning India, USA, China, and Europe. His recently edited book: New Trends in Cross Coupling: Theory and Applications by the Royal Society of Chemistry is widely used in academia and industry. Through his work, Dr. Colacot is credited with being a leading influence in developing exceptional catalytic systems for the advancement of metal-catalyzed synthetic organic chemistry for real world applications such as drug development, OLED’s/liquid crystals and agriculture. His emphasis in designing catalysts and catalytic processes has been on their applicability in industrial settings, particularly pertaining to agriculture, electronics and medicine. He is the finest example of a link between academia and industry.

Dr. Colacot’s contributions to the field have resulted in many awards and accolades, amongst them the recent prestigious IIT Madras 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Technology Innovations and Chemical Research Society of India (2016 CRSI) Medal for outstanding contributions in Organometallics and Homogeneous Catalysis. He is the first Indian to be awarded the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Award in Industrial Chemistry in 2015. He also received the 2015 IPMI Henry Alfred Award (2015) from the International Precious Metal Institute, sponsored by the BASF. In 2014 he received the Indian American Kerala Culture and Civic Center Award for his outstanding contributions in Applied Sciences. In addition, he received Royal Society of Chemistry 2012 Applied Catalysis Award and Medal. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK.