The motive for my research is the need for renewable forms of energy storage, particularly the need for transportation fuels that can be produced sustainably. One promising solution is to convert waste plants – for example wood chips, grass clippings, and corn stalks – into quality fuels. Methods have been developed to convert such biomass sources into a substance called bio-oil; the challenge is to upgrade this bio-oil into fuel that will be used by customers with a process that will be used by customers. What is needed for commercialization is a process to upgrade bio-oil that can be quickly and efficiently adapted in response to the feedback of its users.
The core objective for my project is to gain a more concrete understanding of the synergies arising from the metal-metal interactions in supported bimetallic iron-palladium catalysts. Rational synthesis methods (Strong Electrostatic Adsorption (SEA), Electroless Deposition (ED), and Charge-Enhanced Dry Impregnation(CEDI)) enable me to fine-tune catalyst parameters with a level of control unattainable by conventional preparation techniques, while high sensitivity characterization techniques (XRD, XPS, TPR, STEM, and others) allow me to clearly see how each parameter changes and how it affects the reaction. The increased understanding of bimetallic synergies will much better situate a bio-oil upgrading process for commercialization by allowing the process’s catalyst to be quickly and efficiently adapted to the needs of customers.