The broader impact of this I-Corps project is to develop an alternative source of renewable energy and chemicals to help address the worldwide increasing demands for energy. It will provide a new and abundant source of renewable energy and chemical intermediates with long-term effects. Development of these platform chemicals from renewable cheaper resources, such as waste crops, can impact the economics of the chemical industry by leveraging new starting materials. Technology breakthroughs from this work will enable broader adoption of bio-based products.
This I-Corps project is based on the development of technology for production of platform chemicals using a catalytic membrane reactor. The technology focuses on simultaneous catalytic hydrolysis, dehydration, and rehydration of renewable biomass to bio-based platform chemicals and biofuels. The feed used in this technology is lignocellulosic biomass instead of conventional monomers as starting materials accounting for significant feedstock cost reduction. The competitive thermochemical and enzyme-based technology have major disadvantages such as high energy demand, high cost of enzymes, and involves multiple complex processing steps. Further, comparative chemical conversion processes use corrosive acids or expensive ionic liquids which are unacceptable with present day industrial norms. The technology uses non-toxic, inexpensive, robust, and easily regenerable enzyme-mimicked catalyst efficiently catalyzes multiple reactions with high desired product yield using carefully selected solvent system. Furthermore, the proposed technology is intensified using membrane process that helps in simultaneous catalysis and separation of the products shifting the thermodynamic equilibrium preventing product decomposition. Previous fundamental research has shown that the proposed catalytic membrane can convert both cellulose and hemicellulose part of the biomass, which opens the possibility of future developments that focus on production of multiple other products.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.