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Monday, November 7, 2016

University of Kansas EPSCoR Track-2 Student Investigates Behaviors of Heterogeneous Catalytic Materials

Amy Jystad
   Amy Jystad, a graduate student in the department of Chemistry at the University of Kansas, is conducting simulations to study behaviors of heterogeneous catalytic material. Her research is part of the collaborative EPSCoR RII Track-2 FEC between the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC) at the University of Kansas and the University of South Carolina. The project is titled Catalysis for Renewables: Applications, Fundamentals and Technologies (CRAFT). The overall goal of this EPSCoR project is to improve catalysts that convert the biomass, lignin, into commodity chemicals.
Amy's model
    Specifically, Amy's research focuses on "simulating the acidity behavior of the metal centers in metal-doped KIT-6 mesoporous silicates." There is a strong correlation between this acidity behavior and the catalytic activity of metals, such as zirconium, tungsten and niobium. Therefore, by using density functional theory simulations, Amy wants to better understand what determines this behavior. The long term goal of her research is to simulate the reaction mechanisms for the catalytic conversion of lignin into commodity chemicals that "may provide insights and guidelines for developing a renewable source of feedstock that can be used to manufacture plastics and other products currently made from petroleum crude." Her research could also provide beneficial insights for the other EPSCoR RII Track-2 FEC researchers.  Marco Caricato, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Kansas, is Amy's faculty mentor and is part of a core group at the CEBC using computer modeling methods to understand and optimize chemical processes.

The CEBC is a unique multi-scale, multidisciplinary research and education enterprise recognized as 
an international leader in the field of catalysis. Major companies—like Archer Daniels Midland, 
Chevron Phillips, DuPont, INVISTA, Reliance, Solvay, and UOP—choose to partner with the CEBC to leverage the center’s novel research and faculty expertise.