ChBE Seminar: Synthesis of zeolite catalysts with controlled morphology and composition...

Tuesday, December 14, 2021
11:00 a.m.
Virtual, via Zoom
Taylor Woehl

Speaker: Wei Fan, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Title: Synthesis of zeolite catalysts with controlled morphology and composition for lignocellulosic biomass conversion


Increasing demand for energy and commodity chemicals has led to accelerated research efforts in the conversion of renewable resource into chemicals and fuels for a sustainable economy. The processing of lignocellulosic biomass – an inexpensive, abundant and sustainable source of carbon – offers the promise of sustainable chemicals and carbon-neutral liquid transportation fuels. The International Energy Agency (IEA) laid out a 'roadmap' to ramp up the use of biofuels converted from biomass feedstocks from around 2% of global transport fuel at 2011 to 27% by the year 2050. Zeolite catalysts have shown superior catalytic activity and selectivity for converting lignocellulosic biomass into fuels and chemicals including aromatics and olefins because of the intrinsic ordered micropore structures and unique catalytic activity of zeolite catalysts.

However, the micropore structures and high intrinsic activities frequently lead these materials to be subject to diffusion limitations that restrict reactant accessibility to the active sites on the interior surfaces of zeolites, inhibit the full utilization of zeolite catalysts, and cause fast catalyst deactivation. In addition, the acid strength of zeolite catalysts should be tunable due to multiple reactions involved in biomass conversion. The Fan Research Group has developed a series of methods to synthesize hierarchical zeolites with controllable microporosity and mesoporosity, and develop zeolite catalysts with varying acid strength for converting lignocellulosic biomass into chemicals and fuels.

In this talk, Dr. Fan will first focus on the introduction of synthesis of hierarchical zeolites. The mass transport properties and catalytic properties of these hierarchical zeolites for biomass conversion will be discussed along with the future aspect regarding the rational development of hierarchical zeolites. He will also introduce a new approach to control the defect density in zeolite materials by precisely fine tuning the charge balance in their crystallization process, which can lead to the zeolite materials with different hydrophobicity. At the end, he will show a new type of zeolite catalyst, phosphorous-containing siliceous zeolites. The catalysts are active, stable and selective for producing renewable p-xylene by cycloaddition of biomass-derived dimethylfuran (DMF) and ethylene with an unprecedented p-xylene yield of 97%.


Wei Fan is an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. Fan’s research group focuses on the rational synthesis of nanoporous materials by engineering their pore structure and size, surface properties and active sites based on the comprehensive understanding of their crystallization mechanism. Dr. Fan received his PhD from the University of Tokyo, Japan, under the supervision of Prof. Okubo Tatsuya, and worked with Prof. Michael Tsapatsis at the University of Minnesota from 2007 to 2010 as a post-doc researcher. He started his research group at University of Massachusetts Amherst on 2010. Fan has published more than 90 peer-reviewed papers on international journals including Nature Materials, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie International Edition etc. He received the Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from UMass Amherst and Outstanding College of Engineering Teaching Award from UMass Amherst. Fan is one of the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Awardees.

Audience: Campus 

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