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Carbon-Based and Carbon-Supported Heterogeneous Catalysts for the Catalytic Conversion of Biomass

Carbon-based heterogeneous catalysts synthesized from renewable feedstock enable the conversion of biomass to biofuels and to biorenewable chemicals. The Tessonnier group uses approaches inspired from nature and from organic/organometallic chemistry to synthesize novel nanocarbon-based and nanocarbon-supported heterogeneous catalysts. For example, we recently developed basic catalysts made solely of C and N, which demonstrated an exceptional activity and stability for the synthesis of biodiesel, used as a model biomass conversion reaction. Our goal is to extend this approach to the conversion of carbohydrates and carboxylic acids to chemicals using acid-base and hydrogenation reactions.

Two projects will be offered:

  • Design of a Plug Flow Reactor for the Conversion of Biomass to Chemicals:
    The participating student will be designing and constructing a plug flow reactor for the conversion of biomass to renewable chemicals, using classroom knowledge from organic chemistry, reactor design and reaction kinetics.
  • Selective Surface Modification of Carbon Nanotubes:
    The participating student will be investigating methods to selectively modify the surface of commercially available carbon nanotubes. The student will also have access to and use state-of-the-art equipment/techniques within the Tessonnier group and at the Ames Lab to characterize his/her samples.

Mentor: Jean-Philippe Tessonnier, Assistant Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering, Iowa State University