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My journey as a SuBiCat ESR - by Monica Fernandes, Hybrid Catalysis B.V.

Submitted on: 28 November 2016

Work on SuBiCat project was a life changing step for me as a professional chemist. My academic background is in the field of Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry. As I was accepted by Hybrid Catalysis to be their early stage researcher on this European project, I “discovered” Catalysis and Lignin. Since then it has been an adventure.

Handling and the characterization of lignin are the biggest challenges. This natural polymer has been in the spotlight over the past decades, the main focus was on its transformation into fine chemicals and biofuels. At Hybrid Catalysis we propose a new look! Lignin is the second most abundant natural polymer (after cellulose). It is very complex but on the other hand it is affordable. In the research that we did so far, we noticed that the free hydroxyl groups on the lignin structure are reactive and can be used to bind metals. By taking advantage of this property, we were able to load metals on the polymeric structure changing it into a supported metal catalyst. One of these new materials that we synthesized was successfully tested in epoxidation reactions.

Although lignin depolymerization is receiving the majority of attention in our field, there may be ways to directly use it in higher value applications.