Name: Daniel R. Jones
Working on NOVACAM project: The valeric platform: levulinic acid to γ-valerolactone
Project leader: Prof. Dr. Graham J. Hutchings
PhD: October 2013 – present
MSc Catalysis: October 2012 – September 2013
BSc Chemistry: October 2009 – June 2012
Describe the project shortly in your own words?
The emphasis of modern science is to satisfy the needs of consumers through methods that are sustainable, environmentally benign and industrially economical. Heterogeneous catalysis is a key field in the development and maintenance of such an infrastructure. Recent scientific advancement in this field makes use of lignocellulosic materials as a chemical feedstock. However, catalysts that are potentially active for transform these feedstocks into usable chemicals are critical, expensive, precious metals, such a platinum, palladium and gold.
NOVACAM aims to develop novel catalysts using abundant materials in order to harness the vast potential of biomass as a platform for chemicals and fuels. This will be achieved using a “catalysis by design” approach, which involves studies to gain insight into how catalytic materials react/interact with the desired substrates/products, then designing catalysts with high activity. The work I am doing looks into the valeric platform, specifically the hydrogenation of levulinic and succinic acids into γ-valerolactone and 1,4-butanediol respectively, both of which are useful in the biofuel and fine chemical industries.
What is the biggest challenge for you, or what fascinates you the most in this research project?
We cannot rely on conventional fossil sources to provide us with fuel and chemicals for too long into the future. This project pulls together resources from around the world in a fantastic collaborative effort to try and devise solutions for this problem. The challenge is to find solutions that are both economically viable and sustainable for many, many decades to come. The most interesting thing for me is the idea of making use of common materials to produce something far more valuable and useful.
How do you like to spend your time when not working on your research?
When I’m not in the lab, I can usually be found at the gym, taking a trip to the theatre, working occasionally as a pianist, baking, or with my nose in a good book!