Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Iowa State, Ames Lab researcher hunts for green catalysts

08.03.2011
L. Keith Woo is searching for cleaner, greener chemical reactions.

Woo, an Iowa State University professor of chemistry and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, has studied catalysts and the chemical reactions they affect for more than 25 years. And these days, his focus is on green catalysis.

That, he said, is the search for catalysts that lead to more efficient chemical reactions. That could mean they promote reactions at lower pressures and temperatures. Or it could mean they promote reactions that create less waste. Or it could mean finding safer, cleaner alternatives to toxic or hazardous conditions, such as using water in place of organic solvents.

"We're trying to design, discover and optimize materials that will produce chemical reactions in a way that the energy barrier is lowered," Woo said. "We're doing fundamental, basic catalytic work."

And much of that work is inspired by biology.

In one project, Woo and his research group are studying how iron porphyrins (the heme in the hemoglobin of red blood cells) can be used for various catalytic applications. Iron porphyrins are the active sites in a variety of the enzymes that create reactions and processes within a cell. Most of the iron porphyrin reactions involve oxidation and electron transfer reactions.

Because the iron porphyrins of biology have evolved into highly specialized catalysts, Woo and his research group are studying how they can be used synthetically with the goal of developing catalysts that influence a broader range of reactions.

"We've found porphyrins are capable of doing many reactions – often as well, or better, or cheaper than other catalysts," Woo said.

Another project is using combinatorial techniques to accelerate the development, production and optimization of catalysts. Woo and his research group are using molecular biology to quickly screen a massive library of DNA molecules for catalyst identification and development. The goal is to create water-soluble catalysts for organic reactions.

"Combinatorial approaches such as these have been applied to drug design, but their use in transition metal catalyst development is in its infancy," Woo wrote in a summary of the project.

A third project is looking for catalysts that allow greener production of lactams, which are compounds used in the production of solvents, nylons and other polymers. Commercial lactam production traditionally uses harsh reagents and conditions, such as sulfuric acid and high temperatures, and also creates significant wastes.

Woo, in collaboration with Robert Angelici, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, has found a gold-based catalyst that eliminates the need for the acid and high pressure and also eliminates the wastes. The Iowa State Research Foundation Inc. is seeking a patent on the technology.

And, in a fourth project, Woo is working to understand the chemistry behind the chemical reactions that create bio-oil from the fast pyrolysis of biomass. Fast pyrolysis quickly heats biomass (such as corn stalks and leaves) in the absence of oxygen to produce a liquid bio-oil that can be used to manufacture fuels and chemicals.

Woo's projects are supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, Iowa State's Institute for Physical Research and Technology, Iowa State's Bioeconomy Institute, and the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals based at Iowa State. Woo's research team includes post-doctoral researcher Wenya Lu and doctoral students B.J. Anding, Taiwo Dairo, Erik Klobukowski and Gina Roberts.

Sit down with Woo and he'll call up slide after slide of the chemical equations that describe chemical reactions.

And before long he's describing how catalysts are discovered these days.

"The traditional way to develop catalysts was very Edisonian – one experiment at a time," Woo said. "It was all by trial and error."

Now, with high-throughput approaches, Woo said his research group is able to quickly test a reaction using one hundred trillion different catalysts.

And that, Woo said, is "helping us find less expensive and more environmentally friendly materials and conditions to perform these catalytic reactions."

L. Keith Woo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New gene catalog of ocean microbiome reveals surprises

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

AI implications: Engineer's model lays groundwork for machine-learning device

18.08.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>