476190 Integrating Catalysis and Separations for Energy-Efficient Conversion of Biomass-Derived Feedstocks

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Continental 4 & 5 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Simon H. Pang, School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Research Interests:

My research career has spanned surface science and catalysis of complex multifunctional biomass-derived molecules to adsorption and separations with a variety of nanoporous materials. I believe my combination of skills will allow for design of unique materials and development of techniques that enable practical catalytic and separations processes, particularly focused around biomass valorization and utilization.

My Ph.D. work at the University of Colorado Boulder under Professor Will Medlin focused on elucidating the fundamental surface reaction mechanisms of biomass-derived molecules, such as furfural, on transition metal surfaces and utilizing those insights to design catalysts for atom-efficient selective transformations. Using surface science techniques, I proposed different surface intermediates that led to either the desired hydrodeoxygenation or the atom-inefficient decarbonylation reactions. This fundamental insight led to the design of surface-modified and bimetallic oxide-supported catalysts with superior hydrodeoxygenation selectivity.

During my tenure as a postdoc at the Georgia Institute of Technology under Professors Chris Jones and Ryan Lively, I have broadened my skill set in the areas of separations, adsorption, and materials synthesis, working with a variety of nanoporous materials from intrinsically porous polymers to metal-organic frameworks to structured porous oxides. The majority of my work has focused on designing sorbent systems for separation of CO2 and other acid gases from dilute sources such as flue gas and ambient air and controlling the interactions between liquid adsorbent molecules and solid supports. These projects have required engineering at length scales from the atomic-level design of adsorbents and surfaces to macroscopic contactors such as honeycomb-shaped monoliths and hollow fibers.

Research in my independent career will combine these diverse skill sets to develop advanced materials platforms for valorization of biomass through practical catalysis and separations processes. Much of the challenge in directly using biomass-derived feedstocks lies in the diversity of functional groups, which presents multiple sites for substrate-material interaction, or the difficulty in using traditional thermal separation methods to isolate compounds. My research program will aim at simplification of these feedstocks through catalytic or non-thermal membrane separations means, to enable energy- and atom-efficient conversion to high-value products. Materials design will be guided by an understanding of the fundamental interactions between substrate and catalytic or membrane materials with the goal of producing industrially-relevant materials.

Selected Publications (15 total, 9 first author, 130 total citations (Scopus)):

  1. S.H. Pang, C.A. Schoenbaum, D.K. Schwartz, J.W. Medlin “Directing Reaction Pathways by Catalyst Active-Site Selection using Self-Assembled Monolayers,” Nature Communications 2013, 4:2448.
  2. S.H. Pang, J.W. Medlin “Adsorption and Reaction of Furfural and Furfuryl Alcohol on Pd(111): Unique Reaction Pathways for Multifunctional Reagents,” ACS Catalysis 2011, 1, 1272-1283.
  3. S.H. Pang, N.E. Love, J.W. Medlin "Synergistic Effects of Alloying and Thiolate Modification in Furfural Hydrogenation over Cu-Based Catalysts," J. Physical Chemistry Letters 2014, 5, 4110-4114.
  4. S.H. Pang, M.L. Jue, J. Leisen, C.W. Jones, R.P. Lively “PIM-1 as a “Solution-Processable” Molecular Basket for CO2 Capture from Dilute Sources,” ACS Macro Letters, 2015, 4, 1415-1419.
  5. S.H. Pang, C. Han, D.S. Sholl, C.W. Jones, R.P. Lively “Facet-Specific Stability of ZIF-8 in the Presence of Acid Gases Dissolved in Aqueous Solutions,” 2016, submitted.

Teaching Interests:

My teaching philosophy is centered on two major goals for student learning: 1) the students develop a fundamental understanding of the theories and concepts central to Chemical Engineering, and 2) they become critical thinkers with the problem solving and teamwork skills that will be necessary for them to become successful. The achievement of these two goals will be accomplished via a flipped classroom, where time traditionally spent lecturing will be replaced with activities designed to engage students.

Because of my emphasis on conceptual learning and problem solving, I am primarily interested in teaching chemical engineering courses that form the foundation onto which the other courses build, such as Material and Energy Balances and Thermodynamics, though would be comfortable teaching any core Chemical Engineering course. I am also interested in developing upper-level elective courses in Chemical Kinetics and Catalysis or Nanotechnology. Students will be given the opportunity to work in project teams to investigate a topic of their choosing. Over the course of the semester, they will teach their classmates, with guidance from the teacher, for one or two class periods, using the educational tools mentioned above, and give a presentation on their chosen topic. In addition to enhancing their understanding through peer instruction, they will gain valuable practice giving presentations.

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