Michael Cordon

Graduate Research Assistant

Advised by Professor Rajamani Gounder

Professional Networks



University of Arizona, B.S. Chemical Engineering (2013)
Purdue University, Ph.D. Chemical Engineering (2013 – present)


  • Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold
  • Blowers Research Lab

About Me

I joined the Gounder research group in the fall of 2013. My current research project is to study the fundamental effects of zeolite structural properties in selective catalytic reactions of biomass-derived molecules in condensed media. During my undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona, I worked two internships to model and build bioreactors for Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold and performed research under Dr. Paul Blowers to model a biomass-to-biodiesel conversion process known as catalytic hydrothermal gasification. In my spare time, I enjoy playing racquetball, rock climbing, and snowboarding.

Project Description (high level)

The finite supply of fossil fuels and the environmental concerns associated with their use have encouraged research efforts to develop renewable and carbon-neutral forms of energy, fuels and chemicals. Most routes for the catalytic conversion of renewable biomass to chemicals and transportation fuels occur in liquid solvents, notably water. Liquid solvents, however, often lower the stability and reactivity of the heterogeneous catalysts required for biomass-relevant reactions (isomerization, dehydration, ring-opening).

My project is centered on studying how hydrophobic environments in zeolite and oxide catalysts fundamentally influence reaction rates in liquid solvents. The insights from this study can help design new catalysts for biomass or oxygenate reactions in liquid solvents.

Project Description (detailed)

My project is focused on the synthesis of Bronsted and Lewis acidic zeolites with hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties. Previous work has shown that liquid water inhibits reaction rates on Lewis and Bronsted acid sites, and that hydrophoboic reaction environments around these active sites can mitigate the effects of solvent competitive binding during catalysis. Therefore, this research will involve exploring new synthesis and post-synthetic methods to influence zeolite hydrophobicity. These materials will be characterized using a range of techniques available at Purdue including X-ray diffraction (XRD), gas and vapor physisorption, infrared and diffuse reflectance UV-Visible spectroscopy, and solid-state NMR. These materials of varying hydrophobicity will be used in detailed kinetic and mechanistic studies of sugar reactions in liquid solvents, utilizing both batch reactors and continuous flow reactors that are respectively connected to a high performance liquid chromatograph (HPLC) and an online gas chromatograph (GC).