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Samuel Layding

Investigating the selective catalytic conversion of bioethanol to propylene

Department: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Advisor: Isarel Wachs

We live in an age where increasingly more importance is placed on our day-to-day environmental impact. Efforts to recycle and reduce energy consumption are becoming more important every year, and the energy industry is experiencing shifts towards more sustainable sources of fuel. Bioethanol is a sustainable fuel source which is already used as a component in gasoline and can be derived from sugar cane or corn on a large scale. Additionally, it can be used as a building block for larger functionalized molecules through selective catalytic reactions as an alternative to petroleum cracking to produce smaller molecules. One molecule of industrial significance is propene, or propylene, which is used to make polypropylene, an important packaging material and numerous chemical derivatives. Propene is also a reactant in the cumene process to make acetone and phenol, industrially important compounds. A more environmentally benign and renewable source of this three-carbon molecule than petroleum would prove invaluable to the chemical industry. This summer, we attempted to replicate a patent assigned to GEVO which claims a zinc-zirconia mixed oxide catalyst for the conversion of ethanol to propylene. If such a catalyst could be successfully identified and replicated for large-scale use, it would present a major opportunity for the polymer industry to move away from petroleum sourcing for compounds.

About Samuel Layding:
Samuel Layding, from Clinton, New Jersey, is a sophomore chemical engineering student who spent the past summer in the Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences Research Experience for Undergraduates program conducting catalysis research under Professor Israel Wachs. He plans to go into the alternative energy field to help reduce environmental impacts. He is currently a thermodynamics teaching apprentice. A member of the varsity Men’s Track and Field and Cross Country teams, he has been named to the Patriot League All-Academic team and is also involved in the COACH community service organization. Outside of athletics, he is a part of the Tau Beta Pi honor society. He enjoys reading, listening to music, spending time with his friends and family, and drinking coffee.