The innovation engine for new materials

Grace Hubbell

Grace Hubbell




Lake Superior State University


Megan Chui

Faculty Sponsor(s): 

Peter C. Ford

Faculty Sponsor's Department(s): 

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Project Title: 

Investigation of Molybdenum--doped Porous Metal Oxides as Catalysts in Biomass Conversion

Project Description: 

The search for alternative energy sources has become an important task for society as carbonaceous fossil fuels

continue to deplete. Lignocellulosic biomass is a renewable, affordable, and non-food competing feedstock

suggested. High in aromatic and oxygen content, comprising up to 40% of lignocellulosic biomass, lignin is an

attractive alternative energy source. The selective disassembly of lignin can lead to liquid products that may be

upgraded to higher commodity fuels and chemicals. Previously, a porous metal oxide (PMO) catalyst comprised of

copper, aluminum, and magnesium demonstrated itself as an efficient catalyst in the disassembly of lignocellulosic

biomass. MoS2 is industrially used to enhance deoxygenation and desulfurization. We aim to explore the effects of

molybdenum on the selectivity and reactivity of our system. Mo-deposition was performed on the existing Cu20

PMO catalyst for selective lignin disassembly. PMO catalysts with varying molybdenum compositions (1.25, 2.5,

5.0, 10.0 wt%) were synthesized via equilibrium deposition filtration. Catalytic activity was measured by reacting

these catalysts with the model compounds 2,3-dihydrobenzofuran, benzyl phenyl ether, and methyl-p-toluene

sulfonate in supercritical methanol at 300 °C. Liquid products were analyzed by GC-FID and GC-MS to determine

selectivity and reactivity. Molybdenum-doped Cu20 PMO catalysts displayed selective and variable reactivity

towards these model compounds. These results suggest that based on its activity towards model compounds

reflective of lignin, a robust catalyst comprised of abundant metals and minimal molybdenum may be utilized to

disassemble lignin to produce useful fuels and chemicals.