Sustainable Catalysis


cSEND is pleased to welcome Dr. Per-Ola Norrby to the University of Notre Dame on March 6, 2013 to speak about sustainable catalysis. In a future sustainable society, all raw materials must be obtained from renewable sources. Our current industry is largely based on fossil feedstock. A wide range of chemical transformations have been tailored to maximize the efficiency of converting this raw material into value-added products. Biomass contains functionalities that are very different from the alkanes and alkenes that dominate fossil sources. Thus, new or modified chemical reactions are needed to convert the available biomass either into intermediates that can enter the current processing (pyrolysis, Fischer-Tropsch), or methods that can utilize the additional complexity of biologically derived materials to go directly to more advanced products. Our current research is focused on the latter opportunity, and specifically to utilize the alcohol group that is very prevalent in many types of biomass. Several noble metals can be used in hydrogen-transfer processes to go directly from feeds like carbohydrates or glycerol to various coupling products. We are currently investigating the detailed mechanism of these transformations using iridium catalysts.

Efficient chemical processing is to a large extent based on catalytic processes in flow systems. Engineering solutions for such processes require that catalysts can be immobilized, and not leached in the product stream. For many complex chemical transformations, the most selective methods are based on homogeneous catalysis, but such catalysts are not easily immobilized in a flow process. The SYNFLOW consortium in Europe ( is a collaborative network of 19 academic and industrial nodes, aimed at enabling general solutions for flow applications of homogeneous catalysts. Some of the solutions we have arrived at are discussed in the current talk. I will also show how theoretical chemistry can be used to support this project.

For more information about Dr. Norrby, visit: