Research Talk: Developing catalysts and processes for the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals

Thursday, January 14, 2021

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Topic: Developing catalysts and processes for the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals

Thomas F. Jaramillo
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University
Photon Sciences, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Director, SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis

Society has benefited tremendously from the science and engineering efforts that have brought crucial fuels and chemical products to market at a global-scale based on fossil feedstocks: oil, coal, and natural gas. Key products include conventional liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, in addition to many other important products such as plastics (e.g. polyethylene) and fertilizer (i.e. ammonia, NH3). Based on an evolving energy landscape, there are new opportunities to develop chemical processes that produce the same kinds of fuels and chemicals that we rely on today, however using renewable energy and sustainable feedstocks instead.
In this talk we will discuss new processes that employ renewable resources (e.g. wind and solar) to power the production of important fuels and chemicals in a sustainable manner. This effort is largely motivated by the dropping costs of renewable electricity, the growing penetration of renewables into energy markets, and the need for storing variable electricity. Central to this theme is an effort to develop catalyst materials and associated processes. Specific examples include the production of hydrogen (H2),1,2 carbon-based products (e.g. hydrocarbons, alcohols),3-5 and ammonia (NH3) fertilizer.6,7
The development of catalysts with appropriate properties can serve as the basis of new, renewable pathways to produce the large-scale fuels and chemicals that could play a major role in reaching sustainability goals for the globe.

1. Z.W. Seh, J. Kibsgaard, C.F. Dickens, I. Chorkendorff, J.K. Nørskov, T.F. Jaramillo. Science, 355, 6321 (2017).
2. L.A. King, M.K.A. Hubert, C. Capuano, J. Manco, N. Danilovic, E. Valle, T.R. Hellstern, K. Ayers, T.F. Jaramillo. Nature Nanotechnology, 14, 1071–1074 (2019).
3. S. Nitopi, E. Bertheussen, S.B. Scott, X. Liu, A.K. Engstfeld, S. Horch, B. Seger, I.E.L. Stephens, K. Chan, C. Hahn, J.K. Nørskov, T.F. Jaramillo, I. Chorkendorff. Chemical Reviews, 119, 7610-7672 (2019).
4. P. De Luna, C. Hahn, D. Higgins, S.A. Jaffer, T.F. Jaramillo, E.H. Sargent
Science, 364, eaav3506 (2019).
5. L. Wang, S. Nitopi, A.B. Wong, J. L. Snider, A.C. Nielander, C.G. Morales-Guio, M. Orazov, D.C. Higgins, C. Hahn, T.F. Jaramillo. Nature Catalysis, 2, 702–708 (2019).
6. S.Z. Andersen, V. Čolić, S. Yang, J. A. Schwalbe, A.C. Nielander, J. M. McEnaney, K. Enemark-Rasmussen, J. G. Baker, A.R. Singh, B.A. Rohr, M. J. Statt, S.J. Blair, S. Mezzavilla, J. Kibsgaard, P.C.K. Vesborg, M. Cargnello, S.F. Bent, T.F. Jaramillo, I.E.L. Stephens, J.K. Norskov, I. Chorkendorff, Nature, 570, 504-508 (2019).
7. J.M. McEnaney, A.R. Singh, J.A. Schwalbe, J. Kibsgaard, J.C. Lin, M. Cargnello, T.F. Jaramillo, and J.K. Nørskov. Energy Environ. Sci, 10, 1621-1630 (2017).

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