yuriy roman mit

Catalytic Plastics Upcycling

Our group has recently become interested in catalytic strategies for the depolymerization and upcycling of waste synthetic polymers (i.e., plastics) into useful fuels and chemicals. Our deconstruction efforts are part of the BOTTLE initiative, which leverages a multidisciplinary approach to create a circular plastics economy. Current research in our lab is focused on highly selective and highly active hydrogenolysis of polyolefins, the electrochemical depolymerization of polystyrene, and pathways to selectively produce renewable monomers. Our experimental kinetic studies are supported by the development of relevant simulations.

Team members: Bing Yan, Julie Rorrer, Ydna Questell, Alexi Khechfe, Griffin Drake, Lucas Baston

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Lignin Valorization

Lignin is a major component of biomass that is potentially one of the largest renewable sources of valuable phenolic compounds. At present, however, lignin is viewed primarily as a waste product in the pulp and biorefinery industries because it interferes with the utilization of the carbohydrate fraction. Hence, effective lignin valorization constitutes a major challenge for the viability of second-generation biorefineries. Our group is broadly interested in this topic, with a diverse array of ongoing projects across the value chain ranging from: understanding the mechanisms of perovskite and carbide catalysts for hydrodeoxygenation of lignin-derived compounds, reactor engineering for continuous biomass processing, tandem depolymerization and upgrading processes for single-step production of various target molecules, to multiscale computational simulations of the lignification process in planta.

Team members: Jie Zhu, Matthew Webber

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Electric Field Promotion of Catalysis

While it is known that intrinsic electric fields play an important role in molecular and biological catalysis, their role in heterogeneous thermochemical systems remains unclear because the catalysts employed are typically disconnected from an external circuit (thus making it difficult to monitor or control the degree of electrical polarization of the surface). We work on developing general methods for wirelessly monitoring and controlling spontaneous electrical polarization to promote catalytic turnover. For instance our recent work shows that spontaneous interfacial electric fields should be considered alongside temperature, reactant activities, and catalyst structure as critical parameters to understand liquid-phase heterogeneous catalysis.

Team members: Ran Zhu, Thejas Wesley, Blake Johnson, Bhavish Dinakar

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Microporous Materials

Zeolites and metal-organic frameworks are porous materials with unique pore structures that offer many opportunities as tunable catalysts due to their shape- and size-selectivity and the ability to precisely control chemical composition and siting. Our group has extensive experience synthesizing and characterizing these materials and testing their activity for various catalytic processes of industrial relevance, including the partial oxidation of methane, sugar isomerization, aldol condensation, and heterocycle carbonylation. Simultaneously, we are also exploring reactor engineering for the continuous synthesis of zeolites and metal-organic frameworks and machine learning approaches to zeolite synthesis.

Team members: Soonhyoung Kwon, Husain Adamji, Jie Zhu

Representative publications:

Core-Shell Nanoparticles as Next-Generation Electrocatalysts

Team members: Kaylee McCormack, Daniel Zheng

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Alkene Metathesis

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RESEARCH | Overview | Projects