Field electron emission in organic solvents for biomass conversion
1st supervisor and 1st promotor: Prof. Han Gardeniers
2nd supervisor: Assistant Prof. Arie van Houselt
2nd promotor: Prof. Harold Zandvliet
Co-promotor: Prof. Pieter Bruijnincx (UU)
Affiliation: University of Twente
Research theme: Smart Biomass Conversion
In this project “solvated electrons” generated in organic solvents will be used for the valorization of biomass into value-added compounds, such as fine chemicals. This will be done by reduction of biomass-derived molecules with excess electrons generated through field electron emission into (dielectric) solvents and ionic liquids. Field emission in vacuum is well-known for e.g. electron microscopy and related applications, but has hardly been exploited in liquids. Reduction by solvated electrons is known as “Birch reduction”, which typically is performed by dissolving alkali metals in liquid ammonia.
A green variant of the Birch reduction process will be developed which runs at ambient conditions in environmentally friendly solvents. This will be done by manufacturing dense arrays of nanoneedles from materials with electrical and chemical properties suitable for high electron emission flux, and embedding them in a continuous flow microreactor configuration. The efficiency and selectivity of this system for (partial) reduction of compounds like furfural and aromatic compounds derived from lignin will be investigated, where the degree of reduction will be controlled by residence time in the microreactor. The potential for scale-up will be considered.
- Solvated electrons
- Green chemistry