(Lecture, May 22) The Role of Liquid-phase Catalysis in Production of Renewable Biofuels and Biobased Chemicals
time: 2017-05-18

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.