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Research Interests Today is:  
1. Catalytic decomposition of energy liquids for propulsion applications.

Novel hydrazine decomposition catalysts for the attitude control of spacecrafts and emergency power units of airplanes.

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Catalytic decomposition of nontoxic propellants, such as, hydrogen peroxide, nitrous oxide, hydroxylamine nitrate, and kerosene (alcohol) / hydrogen peroxide.

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2. Design and synthesis of nano- and subnano catalytic materials.

Supported metal catalysts are widely used in catalytic conversion reactions. A better control of the nature of the solids used as catalysts translates into a better control of their catalytic activity, selectivity, and stability. Our group focuses on development of new support materials and new synthesis methods to obtain well-dispersed and homogeneously distributed metal catalysts.

Current research projects include:

☆ Single atom catalysis

Dispersing noble metals as isolated single atoms on a metal oxide support is the long-awaited dream of catalysis, which may lead to low-cost industrial catalysts and address questions in fundamental catalytic science. Developed in 2011 by a collaborative team led by Prof. Tao Zhang, Prof. Jun Li, and Prof. Jingyue Liu, the first single atom catalyst Pt1/FeOx was successfully prepared by a wet-chemistry method, which is highly active for both CO oxidation and preferential oxidation of CO and keeps stable during the reaction.

☆ Design and synthesis of bimetallic catalysts

Bimetallic catalysts have replaced many monometallic catalysts for a wide range of catalytic applications, due to their enhanced selectivity, stability, and/or activity relative to their corresponding monometallic components. Several families of bimetallic catalysts have been developed in our group including Au-M (Ag, Cu, and Pd), and Ni-NM (Pt, Ir, Rh)( Chem. Commun. 2008, 3187-3189).

☆ Synthesis of mesoporous materials as catalyst carriers

Mesoporous materials are amongst the most promising candidates to be used as catalyst carriers due to their unique nano-architectures. We successfully designed series of mesoporous alumina, carbon, heteroatom doped mesoporous carbon, and cabon-alumina nanocomposites. High-efficiency porous heterogeneous catalysts were produced on the basis of the synthegetic effect of the high surface area, uniform pore channel, and the reactivity.

☆ In situ characterization & DFT calculation

Catalytic mechanism is the key to understand the reaction process and to design high efficient catalyst in heterogeneous catalysis. We managed to develop several in situ techniques, including Microcalormeter, Mössbauer, Raman, Infrared, to utilize in characterization of the catalyst surface structure, the catalytic mechanism. Moreover, quantum mechanic based calculation, especially the density functional theory (DFT) calculation was also performed in our group.

Associated research fellow: Prof. Aiqin Wang, Dr. Lin Li, Dr. Yanqiang Huang, Dr. Botao Qiao, Dr. Xiaofeng Yang.

Recent publications:

1. Design of a Highly Active Ir/Fe(OH)x Catalyst: Versatile Application of Pt-Group Metals for the Preferential Oxidation of Carbon Monoxide Jian Lin, Botao Qiao, Jingyue Liu, Yanqiang Huang, Aiqin Wang, Lin Li, Wansheng Zhang, Lawrence F. Allard, Xiaodong Wang*, Tao Zhang* Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., in press.

2. Single-atom Catalysis of CO Oxidation using Pt1/FeOx Botao Qiao, Aiqin Wang, Xiaofeng Yang, Lawrence F. Allard, Zheng Jiang, Yitao Cui, Jingyue Liu*, Jun Li*, Tao Zhang* Nat. Chem., 3 (2011) 634-641.

3. Synthesis, Characterization, and Catalytic Application of Highly Ordered Mesoporous Alumina-Carbon Nanocomposites Jinming Xu, Aiqin Wang, Xiaodong Wang, Dangsheng Su, Tao Zhang* Nano Research, 4(1)(2011)50-60.

4. Synthesis of Thermally Stable and Highly Active Bimetallic Au-Ag Nanoparticles on Inert Supports Xiaoyan Liu, Aiqin Wang, Xiaofeng Yang, Tao Zhang*, Chung-Yuan Mou, Dangsheng Su, Jun Li Chem. Mat., 21 (2009) 410-418 (Cover article).

3. Catalytic conversion of biomass.

Biomass is a renewable and alternative source to the traditional fossil (petroleum, coal, and natural gas) for producing fuels and chemicals. While it has a tremendous potential to alleviate problems caused by fossil fuels, the major impediment to utilization of biomass resources is the lack of cost-effective processes for conversion of biomass resources. The goal of our group is to develop innovative and strategic approaches for conversion of biomass into value added chemicals and liquid fuels based on catalytic technology, and to understand the mechanisms behind these transformations. Currently, our major research thrusts are listed below:

1. Transformation of raw biomass and its main components cellulose, hemicelluose, and lignin to chemicals.

2. Transformation of carbohydrates and sugar-derived products to value added products.

3. Catalytic routes for the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuel from biomass derived platform molecule.

4. Conversion of carbohydrates to furan-based renewable products.

Participants: Prof. Aiqin Wang, Dr. Mingyuan Zheng, Dr. Ning Li, Dr. Changzhi Li, Dr. Jifeng Pang, MS. Yu Jiang, MS. Hua Wang.

Representative progresses:

☆ Catalytic conversion of cellulose into ethylene glycol and other polyols.

In this project, we opened an avenue that selectively converts cellulose into ethylene glycol, by using less expensive tungsten-based catalysts and hot water as the reaction media. Especially, when small amount of nickel was added as a promoter, the selectivity to glycol could be as high as 61% (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, 47, 8510-8513Catal. Today 2009, 147, 77-85). Following the above discovery, we further developed a series of tungsten based bimetallic catalysts for this reaction (ChemSusChem, 2010, 3, 63-66). In the meantime, by employing a new 3D interconnected mesoporous carbon as the support, we obtained a highly active, selective, and robust tungsten carbide catalyst for the production of EG from cellulose (Chem. Commun, 2010, 46, 862-864). More recently, raw biomass such as corn stalk, jerusalem artichoke tuber have been applied for the one-pot efficiently production of polyols (Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 2011, 50, 6601; ChemSusChem. 2012, 5, 932-938

☆ Hydrolysis of cellulose.

Among various cellulose conversion processes, hydrolysis of cellulose to glucose is virtually an essential but difficult step. In our recent work, the hydrolysis of cellulose over sulfonated carbons was promoted greatly by elevating the sulfonation temperature. With 250℃ sulfonated CMK-3 as a catalyst, the cellulose was selectively hydrolyzed into glucose with the yield as high as 74.5%, which is the highest level reported so far on solid acid catalysts (Chem. Commun., 2010, 46, 6935-6937). In the meantime, considering that imidazolium-based ionic liquids provide a potential for the conversion of cellulose in a homogeneous circumstance, we developed the high efficient hydrolysis of cellulose over H-type zeolites in ionic liquid under mild condition. This conversion process features with free pretreatment of cellulose, mild condition, fast reaction rate, as well as easy recycle of the catalyst.

☆ Catalytic conversion of lignin to chemicals and fuel.

In plants, lignin accounts for up to 35% by weight and it is the only large renewable bio-source of aromatics in nature. In this project, we aim to the production of high-value bulk aromatic chemicals and alkane fuels by the combination of catalytic strategies and new solvents. With our previously developed Ni-W2C/AC catalyst, it was found that the lignin component in raw woody biomass could be effectively hydrocracked to monophenols with impressive yields. In our process, the woody biomass is free of pretreatment, the reaction medium is water and no liquid acid or base is required (they are usually regarded as an essential ingredient for lignin degradation). (Energy Environ. Sci. 2012, 5, 6383-6390).

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Representative publications:

1. Direct Catalytic Conversion of Cellulose into Ethylene Glycol Using Nickel-Promoted Tungsten Carbide Catalysts. Na Ji, Tao Zhang, Mingyuan Zheng, Aiqin Wang, Hui Wang, Xiaodong Wang, and Jingguang G. Chen, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, 47, 8510-8513.

2. One-pot catalytic hydrocracking of raw woody biomass into chemicals over supported carbide catalysts: simultaneous conversion of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, Changzhi Li, Mingyuan Zheng, Aiqin Wang, Tao Zhang, Energy Environ. Sci. 2012, Advance Article, DOI: 10.1039/C1EE02684D.

3. Selective production of 1,2-propylene glycol from Jerusalem artichoke tuber on Ni-W2C/AC catalysts, Likun Zhou, Aiqin Wang, Changzhi Li, Mingyuan Zheng, and Tao Zhang. ChemSusChem, 2012, in press.

4. Catalytic Hydrogenation of Corn Stalk to Ethylene Glycol and 1,2-Propylene Glycol. Jifeng Pang, Aiqin Wang, Mingyuan Zheng, Tao Zhang, Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 50(11)(2011)6601-6608.

5. Microwave-promoted conversion of concentrated fructose into 5-hydroxymethylfurfural in ionic liquids in the absence of catalysts. Changzhi Li, Zongbao Zhao, Haile Cai, Aiqin Wang, Tao Zhang, Biomass Bioenerg., 35(1)(2011)2013-2017.

6. Production of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural in ionic liquids under high fructose concentration conditions. Changzhi Li, Zongbao K. Zhao, Aiqin Wang, Mingyuan Zheng, Tao Zhang, Carbohydr. Res., 345(2010)1846-1850.

7. Selective transformation of cellulose into sorbitol by using a bifunctional nickel phosphide catalyst. Lining Ding, Aiqin Wang, Mingyuan Zheng, Tao Zhang, ChemSusChem, 3 (2010) 818-821.

8. Hydrolysis of cellulose into glucose over carbons sulfonated at elevated temperatures. Jifeng Pang, Aiqin Wang, Mingyuan Zheng, Tao Zhang, Chem. Commun., 46(2010)6935-6937.

9. Transition metal-tungsten bimetallic catalysts for the conversion of cellulose into ethylene glycol. Mingyuan Zheng, Aiqin Wang, Naji, Jifeng Pang, Xiaodong Wang, Tao Zhang, ChemSusChem, 3 (2010) 63-66.

10. A new 3D mesoporous carbon replicated from commercial silica as a catalyst support for direct conversion of cellulose into ethylene glycol. Yanhua Zhang, Aiqin Wang, Tao Zhang, Chem. Commun, 46 (2010) 862-864.

11. Catalytic Conversion of Cellulose to Ethylene Glycol over Tungsten Phosphide Catalysts, Zhao G. H., Zheng M. Y., Wang A. Q., Zhang T. Chin. J. Catal., 31(2010)928-932.

12. Catalytic conversion of cellulose into ethylene glycol over supported carbide catalysts, Na Ji, Tao Zhang, Mingyuan Zheng, Aiqin Wang, Hui Wang, Xiaodong Wang, Yuying Shu, Alan L. Stottlemyer, Jingguang G. Chen. Catal. Today 147 (2009) 77-85.

4. Environmental catalysis.

CO oxidation and Selective CO oxidation under excess H2 contitions.

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