A. L. Hook Emerging Scholar Jen Dabrowski authored a peer-reviewed article in the journal Nature Reviews Chemistry
One goal of modern civilization is to change from a society that is dependent on non-renewable resources to access consumer goods, to one that sustainably utilizes renewable assets.
To accomplish the former, scientists utilize, in part, refineries that separate and convert crude materials mined from the Earth into building blocks for downstream processes. Transformations of the myriad types of substances formed (from medicines, to materials) often rely on catalysts – substances that speed up conversion of the starting material – to enhance efficiency.
Faculty Sustainability Fellow, Jen Dabrowski, writes on a strategy to take the beneficial aspects of current refineries – efficiency of catalysis, diversity of products formed – and apply them to renewable cellulosic biomass (i.e. sugars) in her paper entitled, “Homogeneous Catalysis for the Valorization of Cellulosic Biomass: Low-Volume High-Value Components of the Integrated Biorefinery.”
The transition from petroleum to biorenewable sources of carbon to meet our energy and chemical feedstock needs is difficult, in part because these sources are so different, with petroleum being under-functionalized and biomass being over-functionalized relative to commercial chemicals. However, target lists such as the US Department of Energy’s Top 10 have converged efforts to develop the technologies needed to manufacture the most important feedstocks accessible from biorenewables. Less well defined but equally important to the economic viability of an integrated biorefinery are low-volume, high-value product streams, which would help offset the capital costs of a biorefinery. In this Review, we attempt to bring together some of the advances that could fill these niche areas, with a focus on the conversion of cellulosics into chemicals using homogeneous catalysis. The products range from high-value jet fuels to monomers for high-performance polymers and materials to pharmaceutical intermediates and cover a broad range of structural complexities.
Nature Reviews Chemistry is an online-only journal publishing reviews, perspectives, comments and highlights in all disciplines within pure and applied chemistry. “We at Nature Reviews Chemistry strive to keep our readers abreast of the major developments in chemistry by inviting articles that cover all the subfields of chemistry.” Reprinted by permission from Springer Nature: By Invitation Only? Nature Reviews Chemistry 2017, 1, 0094.