Conference Grant: Direct Cellulose Conversion to Chemicals and Fuels

Intellectual Merit

Biomass conversion research has been traditionally dominated by bioprocessing approaches, but these often involve the use of expensive enzymes, engineered microorganisms, and capital intensive processes. However, chemical approaches do not rely on biotechnology and offer considerable versatility. Specifically, thermochemical and catalytic processes can convert biomass-derived carbohydrates to a wide variety of derivatives across a number of markets, including fuels, polymers, pharmaceuticals, and agrochemicals.

This proposal seeks funding for the support of a symposium to be held at the 241st American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting on March 27-31, 2011 in Anaheim, California. The title of the symposium is "Direct Cellulose Conversion to Chemicals and Fuels," and the PI is the symposium organizer. The editor of an established sustainable chemistry journal (Dr. Guido Kemeling from the journal ChemSusChem) has agreed to serve as the Session Chair. The assembling together of experts in the area of chemical biomass conversion for a special symposium at the ACS meeting will enable cross-fertilization of ideas and technologies, foster collaboration, and generally raise awareness of this approach to bio-energy production, potentially leading to partnerships with industry.

Broader Impact

The symposium will include presentations by young researchers (students and postdocs, including representation from under-represented groups), and also reaches out internationally, with invitations extended to speakers in China, England, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands. Representatives from academe, industry, and the national labs will participate. Finally, in terms of curricular development, the PI?s own participation in the symposium will be of assistance in assembling new course materials for an Industrial Chemistry course, which includes a section on alternative energy.

Project Report

This NSF award was a small conference grant to support a symposium entitled "Direct Cellulose Conversion to Chemicals and Fuels," which took place over the course of two sessions on March 30-31 at the 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, CA. The activities promoted by this grant wholly involved networking, education, and outreach. The award enabled the participation of the premier researchers in the field of catalytic biomass processing and valorization. The 19 invited speakers were a mix of university faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and representatives from government labs and from industry. The symposium also had a highly international dimension, involving speakers from the United States, England, Germany, Holland (×2), Finland, China, and Hong Kong. Part of the grant also involved a provision for small training sub-awards which enabled the attendance of two graduate students at UC Davis, one from a research group engaged in sustainability research and another from a group unrepresented in this area. The major "outcome" in terms of intellectual merit resulting from this award involved the promotion of the chemical approach to biomass deconstruction by raising awareness to the potential of available and emerging catalytic technologies to address the biomass-to-bioproducts challenge. In terms of broader impacts, the major outcomes were the interfacing of researchers across university, government, and industry labs and the promotion of graduate education in this area via the sub-awards to graduate students.

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University of California Davis
United States
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