Chemical Catalysis for Sustainable Energy and the Environment

Event Date: September 11, 2012
Speaker: Professor Mahdi Abu-Omar
Speaker Affiliation: Department of Chemistry
Purdue University
Time: 9:00-10:15 a.m.
Location: FRNY G140

Transition metal catalysts have been an integral part of the success story of the petrochemical industry in the past century. Two of the grand challenges for this century are the utilization of renewable resources and environmental remediation. In this seminar, I will discuss two research projects, chlorite dismutation and biomass conversion. The heme enzyme chlorite dismutase transforms the inorganic oxyanion chlorite to dioxygen and innocuous chloride under ambient conditions and physiological pH. Isotope-labeling and computational studies revealed a tightly controlled rebound mechanism in which each chlorite molecule produces O2 and Cl- on a single metal site. Functional modeling of this enzyme will be presented including the discovery of a manganese water soluble porphyrin that generates catalytically chlorine dioxide from chlorite at neutral pH.


Approximately 1.4 billion tons of lignocellulosic biomass is an annually renewable source of energy and feedstock in the U.S. alone. The major components of biomass are cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin- all polymeric and contain high percentage of oxygen. I will describe catalytic processes based on cheap and abundant materials that can be employed in tandem to unravel polymeric biomass into soluble components and their subsequent transformation into fuels or high value organics.