Northwestern University

Thu 9:00 AM

ChBE Seminar Series: Mahdi Abu-Omar

recurring see all events in this series

When: Thursday, October 11, 2018
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM  

Where: Technological Institute, L211, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Elizabeth Rentfro   847.491.2773

Group: McCormick-Chemical and Biological Engineering

Category: Academic


Mahdi Abu-Omar of UCSB.

Host: Eric Masanet

Chemical Synthons and Smart Materials from Lignin

Transition metal catalysts have been an integral part of the success story of the petrochemical industry in the past century. For this century and the future, we must advance developments in renewable energy and the utilization of sustainable resources to make chemicals and materials. Approximately 1.4 billion tons of lignocellulosic biomass is an annually renewable source of energy and chemicals in the U.S. alone. The major components of biomass are cellulose, xylan, and lignin- all polymeric and contain high percentage of oxygen. Current biomass processing underutilizes lignin. We have developed selective reaction chemistries that convert lignin selectively into phenolic molecules/synthons. We have coined this process chemistry CDL for Catalytic Depolymerization of Lignin. Spectroscopic data coupled with mechanistic investigations revealed the roles of solvent and catalyst in this unique reactive-separation, which provides selective molecules from lignin. Renewable triphenol motifs (TPs) have been synthesized and converted to polymers with advanced thermo-mechanical properties that rival those from petroleum. A fully biobased epoxy thermoset has been prepared by esterification of lignin-derived TP with vegetable oil to yield materials with tunable mechanical properties and glass transition temperature. The implication and use of lignin synthons to make renewable, recyclable, and self-healing thermoset polymers will be discussed.

Mahdi Abu-Omar is the Suzanne and Duncan Mellichamp Professor of Green Chemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the associate director of the Center for Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio), an Energy Frontiers Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy. Mahdi is the Founder and President of Spero Energy, Inc., a chemistry technology company specializing in commercial production of renewable and natural molecules from biomass. He has authored more than 160 original research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. His research interest is in the areas of sustainability and green chemistry through the development and understanding of inorganic catalysts. Mahdi is a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) since 2012 and was a Senior Fulbright Fellow (2008). He chaired the Gordon Research Conference on Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms in 2013. Dr. Abu-Omar completed his Ph.D. from Iowa State University and postdoc from Caltech.

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