Kai Wang, GW Chemistry Graduate Student Presents the Development of Supported Catalysts for Valorization of Renewables

GW Chemistry Graduate Student, Voutchkova-Kostal Group


The development of catalytic processes for the conversion of renewable waste products, such as glycerol and CO2, to value-added chemicals is critical to enabling a circular economy. Our group has focused on the development of new methods that simultaneously convert waste materials such as CO2 and glycerol to commodity chemicals with increasing demand, such as lactic and formic acid, via dehydrogenation and transfer hydrogenation processes. However, the catalysts we have employed to-date for these processes are not recoverable and are based on precious metals, such as iridium. Here we report a significant advance in the development of robust heterogeneous catalysts for these processes based on site-isolated heterogeneous catalysts (SIHCs) immobilized on cheap clay-based hydrotalcite supports. The catalysts are characterized extensively to elucidate surface chemistry and electronic effects of the support, and tested for glycerol dehydrogenation and transfer hydrogenation under microwave, high pressure, and continuous flow reaction conditions. We also extend this process to the transfer hydrogenation of another “waste” chemical from biomass processing, levulinic acid, which is efficiently converted to a high-value solvent gamma-valerolactone (GVL). Further rational design of robust and active catalysts for these processes will be based on the structure-activity relationships identified in these SIHCs.



Kai Wang received her B.A. from Huaqiao University in China in 2016. She joined the GWU Chemistry Department in 2016 as a MS student, and in 2017 began her graduate work in the PhD program. Her current work in Voutchkova-Kostal group focuses on the development of supported catalysts for dehydrogenation and transfer hydrogenation from renewable hydrogen sources.