As petroleum reserves decrease, environmental pollution and the impact of rising atmospheric CO2 are exacerbated, both sustainable energy supply and environmental protection are needed. Catalysis plays an important role in addressing energy and environmental issues. Since my Ph.D. study, I have been working on developing new technologies and new catalysts for energy conversion and environmental protection.
My Ph.D. research was on fast pyrolysis of biomass and catalytic upgrading of bio-oil to liquid fuels and valuable chemicals. One of the most important contributions is the development of a new electrocatalytic method with a ruthenium electrocatalyst for biomass conversion, converting electrical energy into carbon-neutral drop-in replacement fuels and valuable chemicals. This method provides substantial advantages, including no need of hydrogen gas, operation at mild conditions to reduce coke formation and catalyst deactivation, and a great way to store intermittent renewable electricity as chemical energy in liquid fuels. The other significant contribution is the development of a new screw-conveyor pyrolysis reactor with compact design, enabling flexible application in regional biomass processing depots, showing great potential to solve biomass supply issue.
To deepen and expand my expertise in catalysis, I continued my postdoc research with Prof. Fabio H. Ribeiro and Prof. W. Nicholas Delgass at Purdue University. My research focused on kinetic studies and also involved new catalytic material synthesis (e.g., zeolites and nanomaterials) and catalyst characterizations (in situ and operando). All the work were performed to establish the fundamental understanding of the catalyst active sites, and the relationship between catalyst structure and catalyst activity. Besides this fundamental research, I am also working on applied catalysis research at Oak Ridge National Lab to develop heterobimetallic zeolites for ethanol conversion to hydrocarbon blend-stock, aiming to overcome the blend wall for bio based fuels. Our technology has been licensed to Vertimass LLC. I have been working on developing new zeolite materials, testing and characterizing new catalysts, scaling up new catalysts, and facilitating technology transfer and development. Furthermore, I am also studying and testing catalysts for automotive emission control.
My future research interests are applying the knowledge of catalyst synthesis, characterization and kinetic studies to solve energy conversion and environmental issues. Specific interests include biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals, natural gas liquefaction and conversion to chemicals, emission control catalysis, electrocatalysis for CO2 conversion, catalysis for wastewater treatment, etc.
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