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The Mechanism of Cellulase Enzyme Mimicking Catalysts


2021 USDA-NIFA Integrated Award


Principal Investigators and affiliations:

PI:  Dr. Ananda Amarasekara, Prairie View A&M University

Co-PI: Dr. Ranil Wickramasinghe, University of Arkansas

             Dr. Xianghong Qian, University of Arkansas

Funded: $340,322

Start Date: 2/01/2021

End Date: 1/31/2024


Project Goal

To develop cellulase enzyme mimicking recyclable chemical catalytic methods for depolymerization of the cellulosic fraction of biomass and further transformations to produce biofuels and chemical feedstocks.


Objectives (PVAMU homogeneous phase enzyme mimicking catalysis subproject)

  1. Development of a Brönsted acidic ionic liquid (BAIL)-metal ion homogeneous phase catalyst system for depolymerization of cellulose and untreated lignocellulosic biomass to glucose in aqueous medium under mild conditions.
  2. Study the mechanism of BAIL-metal ion homogeneous phase catalyst system in aqueous medium using kinetic, thermodynamic, IR, UV, NMR and crystallography methods.
  3. Application of BAIL-metal ion catalyst system in the hydrolysis of the cellulose fraction in untreated biomass forms such as switch grass, corn stover, miscanthus and miscane.


Objectives (UA heterogeneous phase enzyme mimicking catalysis subproject)

  1. Development of a catalyst system with poly (styrene sulfonic acid) (PSSA) and poly (ionic liquid (PIL) chains immobilized on a solid surface for depolymerization of cellulose and transformation of glucose to levulinic acid.
  2. Optimization of reaction temperature and solvent medium to maximize the production of levulinic acid.
  3. Investigation of the effects of lignocellulosic biomass feed stocks on levulinic acid production.


Expected Project Outcomes

  1. Understanding the mechanisms of cellulase enzyme mimicking chemocatalytic systems.
  2. Fundamental knowledge gained on cellulase enzyme mimicking catalysts may help in improving cellulase enzyme based processes and immobilization of enzymes for reuse.
  3. Recyclable catalytic methods for processing cellulosic biomass to glucose and feedstock chemicals under mild conditions.
  4. Catalytic systems developed can be used in cellulosic ethanol process as well as producing downstream value added products such as levulinic acid with many applications in renewable fuel and polymer industry. The catalysts developed here could be bolt on technologies for corn to ethanol facilities that are trying to recover value from waste/byproducts such as corn fiber.
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