Prof. George W. Huber
B.S., Brigham Young University, 1999
M.S., Brigham Young University, 2000
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2005
Current Focus of Research
• Biomass conversion
• Heterogeneous catalysis and kinetics
• High-throughput testing
• Catalyst characterization
Concerns about global warming, national security and the diminishing supply of fossil fuels are causing our society to search for new renewable sources of transportation fuels. In this respect, domestically available biomass has been proposed as part of the solution to our dependence on fossil fuels. While biomass has potential to replace a large fraction of imported petroleum based products, the main obstacle to the more widespread utilization of our low-cost biomass resources is the absence of low-cost processing technologies. The objective of our research is to develop highly efficient and low-cost catalytic processes, catalytic materials and reactors for biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals utilizing aqueous-phase processing. Aqueous-phase technology is advantageous for biomass conversion strategies in that high energy efficiencies are obtained, recyclable-heterogeneous catalysts are used, and biomass-derived molecules, which have a high degree of functionality and low thermal stability, can be processed.
New catalytic materials and processes are developed in our group by using a combination of high-throughput and fundamental studies. High-throughput studies allow the rapid testing of a large number of catalysts, thereby significantly decreasing catalyst development time. We also seek to understand the fundamental chemistry and reaction pathways occurring under reaction conditions. The relationship between the structure of the catalyst and activity/selectivity is investigated using modern in-situ catalytic characterization techniques. New catalytic synthesis techniques, which allow the design of catalyst at the molecular level with controlled adsorption properties, are used to develop highly active catalysts for aqueous-phase processes. We believe it is vital to our nation’s energy, economic and environmental future to continue to develop these low-cost strategies for biomass conversion.
Examples of Current Projects
– Liquid Alkane Production
Alkanes ranging from C1 to C6 can be produced by aqueous-phase dehydration/hydrogenation (APD/H) of biomass derived carbohydrates. Larger alkanes, ranging from C7 to C15, can be produced by combining the APD/H process with a C-C bond forming aqueous-phase aldol condensation step. These larger alkanes can be used as a premium, sulfur-free diesel fuel derived from domestically-available biomass-resources.
– Hydrogen Production
Hydrogen is produced from aqueous-phase reforming (APR) of biomass-derived-oxygenates. The high-pressure H2 produced by APR is also well suited to be used as a processing stream elsewhere in a self-sustained biorefinery or as a fuel for a PEM fuel cell.
– Functionalized Materials
In order to economically convert biomass to fuels and chemicals, highly-active solid-acid and-base catalysts must be developed. Inorganic-organic functionalized mesoporous-materials have been shown to have a high activity for a number of liquid phase catalytic reactions in organic solvents. This project focuses on further improvement of functionalized mesoporous-materials and applying these materials to aqueous-phase processes. Exciting new synthesis techniques are used which allow production of nanostructured catalytic materials with controlled acidity, basicity, polarity, and pore structure. Once the materials are synthesized and characterized they will then be tested in a wide variety of aqueous-phase reactions.
1. Huber, G.W.; Chheda, J.; Barrett, C.B.; and Dumesic, J.A.; "Production of Liquid Alkanes by Aqueous-Phase Processing of Biomass-Derived Carbohydrates", Science, 308, 1446-1450 (2005).
2. Huber, G.W.; Cortright, R.D.; and Dumesic, J.A.; "Renewable Alkanes by Aqueous-Phase Reforming of Biomass Derived Oxygenates", Angewandte Chemie International Edition , 43 , 1549-1551 (2004).
3. Huber, G.W.; Shabaker, J.W.; and Dumesic. J.A.; "Raney Ni-Sn Catalyst for H2 from Biomass-Derived Hydrocarbons" Science , 300 , 2075-2077 (2003).
4. Davda, R.R.; Shabaker, J.W.; Huber, G.W.; Cortright, R.D.; and Dumesic, J.A.; "Aqueous-phase reforming of ethylene glycol on silica-supported metal catalysts", Applied Catalysis B: Environmental , 43 , 13-26 (2003).