288680 Confined Syntheses for Hierarchical Catalysts and Membrane Fabrication for Separation: Key Components for Biorefinery Processes
The development of sustainable energy resources is imperative due to continuously increasing energy demands in a fragile global market, in which plant biomass is the only sustainable resource that can substitute the use of petroleum sources. In this respect, lignocellulose decomposition to monomeric sugars, control of the isomerization of sugars and biomass derivatives, and energy-efficient selective separations have challenged the commercial realization of processes that can generate liquid fuels and chemicals. For the production of sustainable energy from biomass, my expertise in the areas of zeolite/solid catalyst design, membrane fabrication and separation applications, catalytic conversion of biomass and photocatalytic reactions, and nanostructured materials assembly via surface and colloidal chemistry can have an immediate impact in this emerging area.
My graduate research devoted to designing a wide range of porous materials (micro/meso/macropores) and testing them for a range of applications, with a focus on molecular sieve membranes for separation of vapor/gas isomers (ie., xylene and butane isomers). To accomplish this, the concept of reactor engineering of confined systems has been applied to grow zeolite nanocrystals inside confinement while studying their growth mechanism. Controlled morphologies of zeolite nano crystals can be produced, which are used as a seed layer for zeolite membrane growth. In addition, design of zeolite catalysts with controlled extra-porosity was achieved for overcome the diffusion limitations, which have restricted the catalytic activity of zeolites. Furthermore, the ability to control the porosity was applied to different materials (e.g., silica and carbon materials) and self-assembly of nanostructured materials was achieved via surface chemistry.
My recent focus in the postdoc course is related with generation of renewable energy from biomass using synthetic solid materials. Hierarchically designed and multi-functional catalysts have been synthesized for biomass conversion (i.g., cellulose to monomeric sugars) as well as for photocatalytic reactions. In addition, separation of biomass derivatives by selective adsorption using synthetic carbon materials has been investigated.
My proposed research will focus on the design of multi-functional catalysts for biorefinery and catalytic reactions. Hierarchically designed solid catalyst (e.g., zeolites, metal oxide catalysts, functionalized carbon materials) will be used as a template for another catalyst growth, where I will investigate growth mechanism of composite materials as well as sequential catalytic reactions. In addition, zeolitic and composite (zeolite + polymer) membranes will be fabricated for gas separation (e.g., CO2, N2, H2 and isomers) and pervaporation for selective alcohol separation from water mixture. As well, separation of biomass derivatives and water purification will be developed using porous material (i.e., carbon, zeolite and mesoporous materials) with control of porosity, surface modification for specific chemical interaction and continuous reactor design.