Chemical Conversion

The TIMBR Chemical Conversion team is focused on employing thermochemical engineering to develop biorefining technologies to improve the potential to produce flexible bioproduct output. To synthesize a suite of economically desirable products, both biological and chemical catalysts are necessary.  Integrated biological and chemical catalysts have a synergistic effect and cause reactions they efficiently catalyze. The objective of this team’s research is to develop chemical catalysts for the future.

This research collaboration focuses on three main areas:

  • Aqueous phase processing upgrades to produce valuable fuels and chemicals. Their research relies upon the design and synthesis of new metal, oxide and zeolite catalysts, as well as novel membrane separation systems.
  • Fast pyrolysis, or flash heating, as a means of depolymerizing lignin for subsequent refining by catalytic cracking, hydrotreating, or aqueous-phase processing to fuels and chemicals.
  • Novel materials such as amine-substituted zeolites investigation as green catalysts for bioproducts.

Aqueous-phase processing is a novel catalytic process for conversion of aqueous-sugar, organic acids, sugar alcohols, and other biomass-derived feedstocks to hydrogen, natural gas and liquid alkanes.

Lignin, a hydrophobic portion of biomass, has a relatively high energy density and provides an attractive component for production of product streams for transportation fuels and chemicals. Present production methods require expensive and caustic solutions, warranting the development of greener catalysts. The team is applying its collective expertise in catalysis, separations, fuels, and chemicals to investigate these technologies.

The group applies expertise in catalyst synthesis, characterization, theory/modeling, performance testing, and separations and is tuning catalysts and processes to the feedstocks provided by the plant biomass and biological conversion teams.

Team Members

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Molecular modeling of synthetic catalysts and materials for production of fuels and chemicals from biomass; zeolites and nanoporous solids; quantum chemistry and molecular simulation.

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An inventor of Reactive Flash Volatilzation technology, which combines pyrolysis of biomass with catalytic reforming in a compact, autothermal reactor.

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Transitioning and turbulent flows; variable density; density stratified and chemically-reacting flows.

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University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Chemical Engineering

Biofuels, Clean Technology, Catalysis, Conceptual Process Design

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