We are pleased to announce that Professor James A. Dumesic of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the recipient of the 2011 Michel Boudart for Advances in Catalysis, sponsored by the Haldor Topsøe Company and administered jointly by the North American Catalysis Society and the European Federation of Catalysis Societies. The Award will be presented at the 22nd North American Meeting of the Catalysis Society (Detroit, June 2011) and at Europacat X (Glasgow, August 2011).
This Award recognizes and encourages individual contributions to the elucidation of the mechanism and active sites involved in catalytic phenomena and to the development of new methods or concepts that advance the understanding and the practice of heterogeneous catalysis. It is meant to recognize individuals who bring together the rigor and the international impact that exemplifies the accomplishments and the career of Professor Michel Boudart.
Professor Dumesic is being specifically recognized for his pioneering work on the transformation of biomass-derived molecules to chemicals and fuels. In a combination of discovery and refinement, driven by catalytic insight that is his hallmark, Dumesic and his coworkers used thermodynamic and kinetic considerations, combined with catalyst optimization to develop a one-step aqueous phase reforming route from sugars and other biomass-derived oxygenates to hydrogen and/or alkanes. The work was guided by mechanistic insights about the relative rates of C‑C cleavage, leading to the formation of H2 and CO/CO2, and C‑O cleavage, which forms alkyl moieties, and led to the optimization of aqueous phase reforming for either H2 or alkane products. His studies elucidated catalysts and reaction conditions for polyol reforming that favor C‑C cleavage with minimal water-gas shift, thereby allowing glycerol reforming and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis to occur within a single reactor. These discoveries were quickly followed by two new and innovative catalytic conversion processes. One approach employs a cascade of reactors, each designed to sequentially attack specific functional groups; these reactions remove oxygen, achieve carbon-carbon bond synthesis, and steer the final upgrading steps towards the desired fuel molecules. These studies have shown how metal functions, moderated by another metal, can convert sugars and polyols to mono-functional intermediates, such as ketones, alcohols, and carboxylic acids, by balancing the rates of C‑C and C‑O cleavage. This approach led to strategies to form new C‑C bonds via coupling of these mono-functional intermediates to adjust chain length, as in the case of ketonization catalysis of carboxylic acids on mixed oxides and subsequent aldol-condensation to react ketones and alcohols on solid bases. Another novel approach involved γ‑gamma-valerolactone decarboxylation to butene and its oligomers and, in related work, the use of metal-acid bifunctional catalysts to convert valerolactone to C9 ketones by coupling ring-opening and C=C bond hydrogenation with the ketonization of resulting pentanoic acid.
This body of work has redefined the frontiers of fundamental catalysis while simultaneously addressing the critical worldwide needs for renewable energy sources and epitomizes the confluence of elegance and relevance in catalysis that the Boudart Award intends to recognize.
President, North American Catalysis Society
Avelino Corma Canos
President, European Federation of Catalysis Societies