With the depleting stocks of fossil fuels and a growing concern over excessive greenhouse gas emissions, increased attention is directed to the investigation of renewable petroleum alternatives. Biomass has shown promise for alternative fuels and chemicals but its diverse chemical makeup requires new catalytic materials in order synthesize drop in replacements for petroleum products. Thus, bifunctional catalysts, derived from two different active materials, can enable multiple reactions in a single pass system and improve the commercial feasibility of biomass.
Our research goal is to develop metal-acid bifunctional catalysts for biomass conversion. However, the physicochemical and structural requirements (e.g., metal particle size, acid nature, strength, and density) for high conversion and selectivity are poorly understood. Our approach for the discovery of novel catalysts involves the rational design and synthesis of bifunctional materials, guided by a fundamental understanding of the activation of functional groups in biomass molecules. Strong Electrostatic Adsorption (SEA) is a catalyst synthesis method that can easily generate ultrasmall (~1nm or less) nanoparticles with a maximum amount of exposed metal surface. In this work we attempt to expand the SEA technique to deposit multiple metals in a single step (Co-SEA) and evaluate the materials for biomass applications.