The Center also is exploring funding options to
advance the research. The efforts of the Catalysis
Center are only a few of the research projects the
School is pursuing to solve the global energy problem.
Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished
Professor of Chemical Engineering, Delgass, the
Maxine Spencer Nichols Professor Emeritus of
Chemical Engineering and Fabio Ribeiro, the R.
Norris and Eleanor Shreve Professor of Chemical
Engineering. are working on strategies for turning
solid biomass, such as wood chips, switchgrass,
corn stover, rice husks and wheat straw into
biofuels. One method, called fast-hydropyrolysis-hydrodeoxygenation, addresses several problems
associated with turning cellulosic material into
biofuels, including the costs associated with
running gasifiers and transporting bulky biomass to
plants for conversion.
The group's work on a new platinum-molybdenum
catalyst, as well as a new design for a hydropyrolysis
reactor system, could create the possibility of
producing biofuels on-site at agricultural operations,
resulting in an easily transportable liquid that could
be taken to a refinery for further processing. They
system also utilizes all of the biomass as opposed to
using only the cellulose or lignin.
Agrawal also is involved with the "hydricity" concept,
which uses solar concentrators to focus sunlight
and superheat water. The resulting steam could
power turbines and reactors for splitting water
into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen then can
be stored to power steam turbines overnight to
produce electricity. The operation would result in
zero greenhouse-gas emissions.
Nancy Ho, Emeritus research Professor of Chemical
Engineering, designs yeasts that can better convert
the sugars in cellulosic materials into biofuels.
Her Saccharomyces yeast, also known as the Ho-Purdue Yeast, can effectively produce ethanol from
corn stalks, wheat straws, wood, grasses and other
Ho uses recombinant DNA techniques to develop
yeast strains. The method involves combining
genetic material from multiple sources to create a
DNA sequence that would not otherwise be found in
the yeast genome.
Graduate student Han-Ting Tseng performing catalytic properties measurements in Professor Ribeiro’s laboratory