Mahdi Abu-Omar

R. B. Wetherill Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

BRWN 5170C
Brown Laboratory of Chemistry
Purdue University
560 Oval Drive
West Lafayette, IN 47907
(765) 494-5302 (office)
(756) 494-5302 (other/mobile)
(765) 494-0239 (fax)
B.S., summa cum laude, 1992, Hampden-Sydney College;
Ph.D., 1996, Iowa State University of Science and Technology;
Postdoctoral Scholar, 1996-1997, California Institute of Technology

Research Interests

My research group and I are interested in understanding the reaction chemistry of transition element compounds with particular emphasis on their role in catalysis. Our investigations are aimed at building mechanistic understanding that can advance our knowledge of catalysts and improve their design. We determine reaction mechanisms by studying chemical kinetics, characterizing intermediates, employing state-of-the art spectroscopy under operando conditions, and developing structure-function correlations.

One of my laboratory's hallmarks is that we combine mechanistic/physical studies and synthetic chemistry. We are currently engaged in three projects that span fundamental atom and electron transfer reactions in porphyrin/heme systems, catalytic conversion of biomass, and kinetics of single-site olefin polymerization catalysts. Our research is funded by external grants from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Highlighted below are our most recent accomplishments.

Major Research Accomplishments of the Abu-Omar Group:
  • Discovered rhenium catalyzed DeOxyDeHydration reaction (DODH) and applied its utility to conversion of biomass-derived molecules such as glycerol and sugar alcohols to small and useful organics (SUO).
  • Developed synergistic and tandem catalysis for conversion of lignin to aromatic compounds using synergistic effects between Pd nanoparticles and divalent zinc Lewis acid.
  • Established the chemical mechanism for the biological detoxification of chlorite to innocuous chloride and dioxygen with the heme enzyme chlorite dismutase.
  • Demonstrated the use of manganese and ruthenium water-soluble porphyrin complexes as catalysts for generation of chlorine dioxide from chlorite under ambient temperature and neutral pH.
  • Established the utility of molecular weight distribution (MWD) as a tool for studying and defining the kinetics of single-site olefin polymerization catalysts.

We are a part of the Purdue Catalysis Center, which fosters interaction among faculty and students in catalysis research groups by collaborating on research projects, sharing resources and facilities, and holding weekly joint group meetings.

Awards and Honors

Crano Memorial Lecturer, University of Akron 2013
Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2012
JPP Young Investigator Award, Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines 2010
College of Science Interdisciplinary Award, Purdue University 2010
University Faculty Scholar, Purdue University 2008-13
Senior Fulbright Fellow, US-Israel Education Foundation 2008
Team Excellence Award, College of Engineering, Purdue University 2007
Seeds for Success, Purdue University 2006 & 2009
Faculty Career Development Award, UCLA 2001 & 1999
Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER), NSF 1999-03
Beckman Young Investigator Award, Beckman Foundation 1999-02
Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award, March of Dimes 1999-01

Selected Publications

"Cleavage and Hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of C-O Bonds Relevant to Lignin Conversion Using Pd/Zn Synergistic Catalysis," T. Parsell, B. Owen, I. Klein, T. Jarrell, C. Marcum, L. Haupert, L. Amundson, H. Kenttamaa, F. Ribeiro, J. T. Miller, and M. M. Abu-Omar, Chem. Sci., 4, 806-813, 2013.

"Rhenium-Catalyzed Transfer Hydrogenation and Deoxygenation of Biomass-Derived Polyols to Small and Useful Organics," J. Yi, S. Liu, and M. M. Abu-Omar, ChemSusChem, 5, 1401-1404, 2012

"Kinetic Modeling of 1-Hexene Polymerization Catalyzed by Zr(tBu-ONNMe2O)Bn2/B(C6F5)3," J. M. Switzer, N. E. Travia, D. K. Steelman, G. A. Medvedev, K. T. Thomson, W. N. Delgass, M. M. Abu-Omar, and J. M. Caruthers, Macromolecules, 45, 4978-4988, 2012

"Direct conversion of cellulose and lignocellulosic biomass into chemicals and biofuel with metal chloride catalysts," S. Dutta, S. De, Md. I. Alam, M. M. Abu-Omar, B. Saha, J. Cat., 288, 8-15, 2012

"Conversion of carbohydrates and lignocellulosic biomass into 5-hydroxymethylfurfural using AlCl3??6H2O catalyst in a biphasic solvent system," Y. Yang , C. Hu, and M. M. Abu-Omar, Green Chem., 14, 509-513, 2012

"Selective Conversion of Biomass Hemicellulose to Furfural Using Maleic Acid with Microwave Heating," E. S. Kim, S. Liu, M. M. Abu-Omar, and N. S. Mosier, Energy Fuels, 26, 1298-1304, 2012

"High-valent complexes of iron and manganese complexes of corrole and porphyrin in atom transfer and dioxygen evolving catalysis," M. M. Abu-Omar, Dalton Trans., 40, 3435-3444, 2011