(7ff) Understanding and Improving Heterogeneous Catalysis for Sustainable Production of Renewable Fuels and Chemicals

He, J., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Research Interests:

The growing population has increased the global energy consumption and placed stress on the environment and society. Catalysis plays a critical role in the utilization of renewable energy resource, like wind, sun and biomass to provide energy and chemicals to meet the growing demand for a sustainable future. My research interests focus on the pursuit of understanding and development of heterogeneous catalysts towards production of fuels and chemicals using kinetics and insights from spectroscopy techniques.

In my Ph.D research with Prof. Johannes A. Lercher in the Chair of Technical Chemistry II at Technical University of Munich, I have developed effective catalytic strategies to convert biomass-derived molecules into aromatics, alkanes and alcohols. In particular, by exploiting the base metal catalysts in aqueous phase, we enabled the activation and cleavage of the C-O ether bond to upgrade biomass-derived oxygenates into renewable hydrocarbons and we also developed stable dual-function catalysts for the hydrodeoxygenation of biomass-derived oxygenates to bio-fuels by understanding the elementary steps through kinetic study and in-situ spectroscopy. For example, using Reactor IR, I was able to track the intermediates during the cascade reactions. In my current postdoctoral research with Prof. James A. Dumesic and Prof. George W. Huber, in the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering at University of Wisconsin, Madison, my research interest is on the catalytic conversion of the lignocellulosic biomass into α,ω- diols. Using the combination of kinetics and spectroscopic techniques I was able to draw correlations between the structure and catalytic activity of various transition metal oxide system and identify the active catalytic sites to gain a better understanding of chemistry and catalysis.

At the poster session I will present an overview of my past and present research, as well as my plan for future research activities which will continue to exploring fundamental insight towards catalytic conversion of renewable energy sources to fuels and chemicals. By understanding the chemistry behind the heterogeneous catalysis, more efficient and economic catalytic solution can be developed.

Teaching Interests:

My preference includes the entry-level courses in chemical engineering. With my background in chemistry, I am particularly well suited for teaching courses in chemical kinetics, materials balances and thermodynamics. I would also be interested in teaching more specialized courses in heterogeneous catalysis and/or microkinetics as elective classes at the graduate level.