Professor James A. Dumesic is the recipient of the 2011 Boudart Award in Catalysis

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.
Enrique Igle­sia
Pres­i­dent, North Amer­i­can Catal­y­sis Soci­ety
Aveli­no Cor­ma Canos
Pres­i­dent, Euro­pean Fed­er­a­tion of Catal­y­sis Soci­eties