Global feedstock supply under pressure due to shortness and geopolitical issues. Current transition of feedstock use implies a change from fossil oil into other resources like gas, coal and biomass. Strategies to convert each of them into chemicals and materials and the challenges associated with that goal are different for each alternative feedstock. Biomass, when sustainably harvested, is considered renewable and may have low carbon footprint. As long as the atom economy of the reactions to convert biomass into chemicals is high, use of biomass is an elegant solution to replace the fossil resources. Reactivity of a molecule is determined by its chemical functional groups. Biomass comprises a collection of beautiful chemical structures: alcohols and carbonyls in carbohydrates, amines in proteins, carboxylic acids and esters in triglycerides, aromatics in lignin and cyclic structures in terpenes. Next to technological challenges in the biorefinery, the emerging task of (bio)chemists is to discover reaction pathways to selectivity convert the original structures into useful ones. While biotechnology is able to deal with biomass feedstock, classic heterogeneous catalysis also will play a great role in that transformations. Even better, taking advantage of both worlds, joint conversions will likely be the best strategy in a biorefinery to produce a handful of chemicals against competitive prices. Since the beginning of the 21st century, a vast literature has developed showing elegant catalytic systems, adapted for the conversion of biomass. In this context, the lecture will give an overview of the catalytic work done in my group over the last couple of years. Points of interest are the role of catalysis in the biorefinery of lignocellulosics with focus on the recovery of carbohydrate pulp and lignin-derived chemicals, and their conversion into useful products and materials.
Bert F. Sels (1972), currently full professor at KU Leuven, obtained his Ph.D. in 2000 in the field of heterogeneous oxidation catalysis under guidance of professor Pierre Jacobs. He was awarded the DSM Chemistry Award in 2000, the Incentive Award by the Belgian Chemical Society in 2005, and the Green Chemistry Award in 2015. He is currently director of the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis (COK), and active in designing heterogeneous catalysts for future challenges in industrial organic and environmental catalysis. He is also appointed active member of the Research Council of the university. He has about 280 peer reviewed papers with an h index of 65 and more than 13 500 citations (google scholar), and he wrote 25 patents. His expertise includes heterogeneous catalysis in bio-refineries, design of hierarchical zeolites and carbons, and the spectroscopic and kinetic study of active sites for small-molecule activation. He is co-chair of the Catalysis Commission of the International Zeolite Association (IZA) and co-founder of European Research Institute of Catalysis (ERIC). He is member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, board member of the international advisory board of ChemSusChem (Wiley), ChemCatChem (Wiley) and associate editor of ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
Contact: ZHANG Xiaochen, DNL0603