Conversations in Science
for K-12 Educators

A program conceived and organized by the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the collaboration of the Madison Metropolitan School District and the Edgewood Sonderegger Science Center.


Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

Catalytic Production of Hydrogen, Fuels and Chemicals from Biomass-derived Oxygenated Hydrocarbons

James A. Dumesic - Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin Madison



About the conversation:

Environmental and political issues created by our dependence on fossil fuels, such as global warming and national security, combined with diminishing petroleum resources are causing our society to search for new renewable sources of energy and chemicals, and an important sustainable source of organic fuels, chemicals and materials is plant biomass.  We show how H2 and CO2 can be produced by aqueous-phase reforming of oxygenated hydrocarbons derived from carbohydrates at low temperatures (e.g., 500 K) over supported platinum catalysts.  We also present results for vapor-phase reforming of volatile oxygenated hydrocarbons, such as glycerol, allowing us to compare and contrast the reaction pathways for reforming and water-gas shift reactions in aqueous solutions versus in the gas phase.  Moreover, we show how gas mixtures of H2 and CO can be produced at high rates and selectivities from glycerol over platinum-based bi-metallic catalysts at temperatures ( e.g. , 500-620 K) that are significantly lower compared to conventional gasification of biomass, allowing this gasification step to be coupled effectively with hydrocarbon production by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.  We then show how hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) can be formed in high yields by dehydration of carbohydrates in a biphasic reactor, and we illustrate how HMF can subsequently be used to produce liquid transportation fuels, such as dimethylfuran and alkanes ranging from C7 to C15

About the presenter:

James Dumesic received his Ph. D. in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University, under the supervision of Michel Boudart, working in the area of heterogeneous catalysis.  After postdoctoral positions in France, Denmark, and Russia, he joined the chemical engineering faculty at the University of Wisconsin in 1976, where he has worked to the present time.  He is currently the Steenbock chair of engineering.  Dumesic's research group is currently studying the fundamental and applied aspects of catalytic processes involved in the conversion of biomass feeds to fuels and chemicals.  He co-founded Virent Energy Systems with Randy Cortright.

Recommended Reading:

Renewable Alkanes by Aqueous-Phase Reforming of Biomass-Derived Oxygenates

A review of catalytic issues and process conditions for renewable hydrogen and alkanes by aqueous-phase reforming of oxygenated hydrocarbons over supported metal catalysts

Production of Liquid Alkanes by Aqueous-Phase Processing of Biomass-Derived Carbohydrates

Hydrogen from catalytic reforming of biomass-derived hydrocarbons in liquid water