Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2015

Thesis Advisor(s)

Dr. Steven L. Suib

Honors Major



Chemistry | Inorganic Chemistry | Materials Chemistry


The development of innovative strategies and environmentally-friendly resources for the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals from renewable materials has recently received much interest in the scientific world. Among such resources, biomass has enormous potential as a raw material for generation of green fine chemicals to replace the petroleum feedstocks currently in place. Biomass derived carbohydrates can be converted into such valuable platform chemicals as levulinates, 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), and lactates. In order to catalyze the biomass conversion process, porous transition-metal oxide catalytic systems have been developed in this study. High catalytic activities and potential for reusability of such systems serve as the main motivation for this research. TiO2 nanoparticles, TiO2-ZrO2, and TiO2-Zn catalysts were successfully synthesized, characterized, and analyzed for the conversion of various biomass starting materials into platform intermediate molecules. Selectivities and activities of each of these three systems were studied extensively and compared to each other in an attempt to determine the best possible catalyst for the generation of the desired products. Brønsted and Lewis acidic nature of the catalysts was studied as part of this work. TiO2 nanoparticle and TiO2-ZrO2 systems are example of Brønsted acidic catalysts that generate levulinate products, while the TiO2-Zn system is an example of a novel catalyst that exhibits both Brønsted and Lewis acidity, and therefore produces both levulinate and lactate products in considerable yields. In addition to synthesis optimization and characterization for each of the systems, surface and reusability studies were conducted. The catalytic potential of each of the three catalytic materials is discussed in detail, with several conclusions being reached regarding the effectiveness of each catalyst on the biomass conversion reaction.