Marcus Foston is an assistant professor in the Energy, Environmental, and Chemical Engineering Department at Washington University in St Louis. He received his PhD in polymer chemistry in the Material Science and Engineering Department at the Georgia Institute of Technology and soon after completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
His current research program is directed at the development of innovative and novel routes to exploit and utilize biomass resources. Dr. Marcus Foston primary research themes are: (1) the characterization of biomass in an effort to understand, design, and optimize its downstream conversion, (2) the development of processes that are designed to convert lignin into value-added chemicals and materials, and (3) the synthesis novel biomass-derived synthetic polymers for specific applications.
Abstract for seminar: The lignin component of biomass has potential as a renewable source for industrially useful aromatic chemicals. While technologies for the selective conversion of the carbohydrate components have been successful, lignin is generally treated as waste and burned for low grade heat. We have developed a catalytic system, based on a metal-doped porous oxide, which can reductively disassemble lignin in methanol with little to no char formation. While the copper-doped porous oxide (CuPMO) performs several functions in lignin disassembly, including (1) H2 generation by alcohol reforming; (2) base-catalyzed solvolysis of insoluble lignin to soluble and catalysts accessible fragments; (3) hydrogenolysis of C-O aryl-ether linkages; and (4) base-catalyzed alkylation of phenolics.
While it is remarkable that a single-component catalyst is capable of all of these functions, it is very likely that CuPMO is not the optimum catalyst for each function individually.
We have observed that Ni-alumina provides much faster rates of lignin hydrogenolysis than Cu-alumina on aryl-ether model compounds, but that the Ni-alumina does not catalyze alcohol reforming to produce H2 efficiently. Therefore, I will present a study that elucidates the effect that copper and nickel bimetallic compositions within porous metal oxides have
on the selective depolymerization of lignin into aromatic chemicals via hydrogenolysis in methanol.
The TAPPI Student Chapter Georgia Tech hosts the seminar series with the financial support of the Renewable Bioproducts Institute, the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, the Lignin Group and TAPPI.