Richard Caulkins

Graduate Research Assistant

Advised by Professor Fabio Ribeiro

Professional Networks



University of Washington, B.S. Chemical Engineering (2014)
Purdue University, Ph.D. Chemical Engineering (2014 – Present)


Project Description

My work focuses on developing and testing catalysts for use in the H2Bioil process for the conversion of biomass into liquid hydrocarbon fuels. This process involves the fast pyrolysis of biomass in the presence of hydrogen and the catalytic upgrading of the resultant products in a downstream reactor. Pyrolysis of biomass results in the formation of highly oxygenated molecules that lie primarily in the C1-C6 range, requiring several upgrading steps to be suitable for liquid fuels. We focus on aldol condensation and hydrodeoxygenation as the key reactions. The key challenge in these reactions is in understanding how the numerous varied molecules formed during pyrolysis interact with each other over catalyst surfaces at different temperatures and hydrogen partial pressures in order to achieve high selectivity towards fuel-range hydrocarbons. I use a microscale pulse pyroprobe reactor to study catalysts to perform upgrading reactions of interest on both model compounds and biomass itself. Detailed kinetic studies of catalysts are performed in a continuous plug flow reactor using model compounds for biomass pyrolysis vapors. Promising catalysts are characterized using several techniques including AAS, BET, STEM, EELS, XAS, and XPS.