ChemCatBio: The Next Three Years of Catalyst R&D To Decarbonize Fuels and Chemicals
This is the text version for the ChemCatBio: The Next Three Years of Catalyst R&D To Decarbonize Fuels and Chemicals webinar.
Erik Ringle, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Well again, hello everyone and welcome to today's webinar, ChemCatBio: The Next Three Years of Catalyst R&D To Decarbonize Fuels and Chemicals. I'm Erik Ringle from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and before we get started, I'm just gonna cover a few housekeeping items so you know how you can participate. You'll be in listen only mode during the webinar. You can select audio connection options to listen through your computer audio or dial in through your phone. For the best connection we recommend calling in through a phone line.
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Next slide please. Our speaker today is Dan Ruddy, the deputy director of ChemCatBio, and a senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL. He is the principal investigator for NREL research projects focusing on the catalytic conversion of syngas, methanol, and carbon dioxide to fuels and chemicals. He also serves as a business development lead for NREL’s carbon management program. Dan received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Lafayette College in 2003 and his doctorate in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008. His research seeks to integrate the synthesis and characterization of functional molecules and materials to enable renewable fuels production and advanced related energy technologies.
So, Dan, we're excited to hear what you have to tell us today. And with that, I'll turn it over to you.
Dan Ruddy, Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium: Great. Thanks a lot, Erik. Appreciate the introduction and we’ll go ahead and get started. Thank you to all of you that have joined us here today. Let's jump right in. I know we have a number of people on the call that probably work in the bioenergy industry and think about this type of work every day, but we also have some folks who might be new, maybe some graduate students or postdocs that wanna learn about what we're doing in the ChemCatBio consortium. And so, let me tell you a little bit about where we've been and then where we're going over the next three years.
So, first off is that I think we all need to acknowledge that catalysis really enables a circular carbon economy that we're striving for to reduce our emissions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And 85 percent of our industrial chemical processes rely on catalysts.
So, that's whether we're thinking about things in this figure here on the material cycle, whether they be functional molecules, things that build into plastics, polymers, or on the fuel cycle which is what we'll focus on today. But regardless, both of these really require catalysts and our consortium, the ChemCatBio Consortium is seeking to accelerate that catalyst development process for bioenergy applications.
Now one of the really big challenges that we're seeking to address is that we need tons of fuel in the U.S. for transportation. 70 percent of the energy used from petroleum is transportation fuel. And if we look at a breakdown of where the 42 gallons in a barrel of petroleum go, we can look at this plot here from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and we see that about 85 percent of that goes to transportation fuels. It's nearly 20 million barrels per day and 7.3 billion barrels per year, and that's the U.S. only in 2021. And so again, literally we need tons of fuel.
But the needs are changing. When we look at these types of projections, again, data from the U.S. EIA, dominant in our current needs are gasoline fuel with 135 billion gallons per year, more than double that of diesel and significantly more even than jet fuel. But when we look at the projections through the next 20 years or so, we anticipate a decline in gasoline demand. We all know about electric vehicles and their advent and their growing market share. We do anticipate that to grow.
It's important to note that this projected use doesn't go to minus 100 percent, so gasoline might still be part of our future, but certainly jet fuel is an opportunity and the growing demand that we've already realized here in the last five years or so, we do anticipate that to continue to grow over the next 20 years. And so, we want to think about ways that we can inject the most impact or the type of renewable fuels we're developing. So, if we look at the right-hand side of this slide, there are some transportation modes where electrification can more easily displace the current fuel, such as gasoline and electric vehicles, even some rail, especially light rail, and buses.
But as you move up to these heavier duty vessels—trucking, shipping, and especially jet airplanes—we’re really gonna need that liquid fuel. So, it's gonna be much more difficult to electrify these types of vehicles. And so, when we think about those challenges and the continued need for liquid fuel, we also wanna think about the opportunity. We have tons of biomass available, and we could grow more than a billion tons per year of biomass in the U.S. and that would be sustainably harvested in the U.S. for biofuels and not competing with our food supply.
I direct you to search for the billion-ton report published out of Oak Ridge National Lab, and I believe there will be an update in the very near future. This really provides a roadmap to how we can access these billion-tons-per-year of biomass, specifically used for biofuel production. And this links in very closely with the Department of Energy's Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF, Grand Challenge.
And there's a few, there's two really important metrics here when we think about the SAF Grand Challenge. The first is a minimum 50 percent reduction in the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions versus petroleum derived jet, and we wanna be able to meet 100 percent of the aviation fuel demand by 2050. You can read more about this at the link shown here on the slide. And so, when we start to think about these two, the nexus of these two concepts here, we have a lot of biomass available for us, and we wanna be able to meet the aviation fuel demand.
It kind of raises the question, well, how much SAF can we get from all of this biomass? So, we have to think of the conversion of biomass and how many gallons per ton, or how many gallons of fuel per ton of biomass, and if we have 50 gallons per ton and we have a billion available, we could have 50 billion gallons per year, which would currently exceed our demand now at about 21 billion gallons. And even if we think about the continued growth over the next 20 and 30 years, this would still provide us enough.
And it's important to note 50 gallons per ton is on the conservative side of what we've demonstrated already and where are some of our techno-economic models show projections that we could achieve. And so, even with the more conservative projection of our conversion from biomass to fuels, we could still meet the current demand and the expected growth in jet fuel with a true SAF product that's compatible with existing infrastructure.
And so, it kind of raises the next question, why aren't we making these hydrocarbon biofuels today? What are the limiting factors here? The first thing we might think about is feedstock cost. So, here's a plot from recently for West Texas intermediate crude. You can look. There's certainly fluctuations in oil prices. I think we all know that, and that's well documented in our daily life. But if we look at an average over these last, from October through November, the average is about $88 per barrel. So, that gives just over $2 per gallon on the feedstock cost for oil.
If we think about biomass feedstocks, again, informed from folks at Oak Ridge National Lab who've studied this in billion-ton report, there is a bit of a range in the feedstock cost as well, from $60 to $100 dollars per dry ton, depending on exactly where that feedstock's coming from, the quality of it as one example. And again, if we assume this 50 gallons per ton conversion, again, often we have projections over 60 gallons per ton. But even at 50 gallons per ton, this would give us a comparable feedstock cost of $1.20 to $2 per gallon. So, the feedstock cost, while it is an important consideration, isn't necessarily the deal breaker.
When we look at the processing costs, that's where things become more apparent of the challenges limiting hydrocarbon biofuel production today. So, here's a platform, a paper in 2007, and it really shows how the processing cost for lignocellulose remain very high.
So, when we think about petroleum refinery costs, they're usually less than a dollar per gallon of gasoline. They really are the textbook example of chemical engineering at work and economies of scale, right? And so, we can drive down these processing costs to be able to generate these billions of gallons of fuel. For lignocellulose, that's not the case. It's a very different type of chemistry, right? It's not just simply cracking, boiling, separating, and maybe doing some hydrotreating.
There's a lot more chemistry that has to happen for lignocellulose to be converted to fuels, and so these processing costs remain high, and so therefore, our refining costs are also over about $2 per gallon giving realistic biomass derived fuel costs typically over $3 per gallon, and so this motivates us to develop catalysts and processes that can really help reduce this green block here for the lignocellulose processing costs down to be more competitive and have overall fuel production costs be more competitive. And I mentioned that chemistry, right? And that really speaks to the grand challenge for biomass utilization.
We want to take these biopolymers like cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, highly oxygenated, often cyclic compounds, and aromatics in the lignin, and we wanna convert those to our hydrocarbon fuels here, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. And you can see structurally these are just very different at the molecular level. And so, we need to do conversion, either biochemical or thermochemical pathways.
We often target intermediates that we can generate in high yield and have a balance between stability and reactivity so that we can either perhaps ship them for additional processing or still have the reactivity and a more straightforward conversion processes from the complex oxygenated structures here to be able to access these hydrocarbon fuels. And when, through the years, I think we've demonstrated that multifunctional catalysts are required to convert biomass into fuels. We need to be able to activate the oxygen functionalities, we need to be able to add hydrogen, and so, we need multiple types of active sites in our catalyst. And that really is one of the key challenges here in the conversion of biomass to fuels.
We take an R&D consortium approach to help enable the bioeconomy, and that's really the crux of our ChemCatBio Consortium. We're pursuing the rapid decarbonization of our economy by accelerating the catalyst and process development cycle for bioenergy applications. We do have our link to our website there, and you can learn a lot more of what we've been up to over the last three to five years.
So, first things I wanna note kind of high level about our consortium. A major part of what we do is providing resources that can accelerate research and development. So, graphic and an analogy that we like to use I think many of us can relate to is riding a bicycle, right? If we think about the stage gates and the goals that we need to achieve in catalyst and process development, they represent the peaks here on these mountains. We need to generate new catalyst structures—again, these multifunctional catalysts—demonstrate product yields, demonstrate stability (very important one). We need to then translate this with appropriate cost and formulation to the industry and integrate it into a process, right?
It's not necessarily standalone. It needs to fit into the more holistic fuel development in the U.S. And so, each one of these are very, very important peaks and they're quite a challenge to try to surmount, right? But we can't change those. But if we can reduce the height of those peaks, we can reduce the cost and time for technology maturation by reducing those peaks, by developing tools that enable us to hit each of these stage gates at a lower cost and lower time. Then you can see our cyclist here can make it further along. And that's really what we're trying to do in the catalyst and process development cycle.
So, the way we do that would look very typical to those of you that have been doing research for a long time, right? You want to couple your synthesis and characterization of new molecules and materials with computational understanding, and these work back and forth. Sometimes the computation can help you target new materials. And similarly, you wanna do your performance testing usually at the smaller scale to begin. And what you learn here can advise new structures to generate or new computational questions that need to be answered.
And we call this our foundational catalysis science cycle. Very typical type of approach. But what we do in our consortium is that we can couple an applied engineering cycle as well. We can take these performance testing and we can consider those results now in the context of catalyst scaling and process modeling. We can take this type of information, put that into techno-economic analyses, and now we can start to understand what parts of the process represent the highest cost and the biggest challenge that needs to be surmounted, and we can feed results from this cycle on the applied engineering back through our performance testing and try to address those here on the foundational catalysis science.
Do we need new catalyst formulation? Do we need a better computational understanding of some of these process models and reactor models? And so, we can link these two together both on the fundamental side and on the applied side. And so, within the consortium, we have a number of pathways under development. We call those our catalytic technologies.
We're exploring conversion of multiple feedstocks here on the left. Again, biomass is our major source, feedstock source, but we do consider biogas, waste gases like carbon dioxide, and of course solid waste and how all of these can work together and perhaps even be blended through some of these conversion technologies. And we're seeking again, through multiple processes, targeting SAF as the primary product from each of these technologies, but considering some of the other products that may enable the economics to work in our favor.
As a brief overview of the four major ones highlighted here, pyrolysis to generate pyrolysis oil intermediate that our catalytic fast pyrolysis project then seeks to upgrade to fuels. Gasification of the feedstock, and then conversion of that syngas through what we call our upgrading of C1 building blocks project. We have a variety of intermediates identified that can be accessed from biology. So, our bio-derived oxygenates are another set of intermediates: 2,3-butanediol, furans, and volatile fatty acids, essentially short-chain carboxylic acids.
We have a number of pathways looking at the conversion of those oxygenates, what we call our catalytic upgrading of biochemical intermediates project. And then lastly, the project devoted to the upgrading of ethanol, which of course can be produced by a variety of feedstocks and routes itself. Our upgrading of C2 intermediates project, again, seeking to convert ethanol to SAF and other products.
Supporting those catalytic technologies, we have a series of what we call enabling capabilities, and these are cross-cutting projects that develop computational tools and experimental methods that support the catalyst and process R&D in those pathway specific projects highlighted in the previous slide. So, this includes a dedicated computational effort to help us understand reactions both from the atomic scale all the way through the reactor scale. It's a very important multi-scale approach within this computational effort. Our synthesis and characterization project helps us understand—here an example shown—information and spectroscopy related to our regeneration strategies for a certain zeolite type of conversion.
We have a project dedicated to deactivation and mitigation, understanding how catalysts deactivate and how we can extend those lifetimes. And then lastly a property database project, and we'll talk a little bit more about this in a few later slides about our catalyst property database. So, for the next few slides, I want to go over some of our key accomplishments from the last three years. And it's important to note the last three years our focus was on improved yields for cost reductions in each of these catalytic pathways and for establishing ChemCatBio as the central hub of knowledge for the bioenergy community.
So, I'm not gonna focus too much on the accomplishments from each of the individual pathway slides. I'm gonna talk a little bit more at the higher-level accomplishments of the consortium. We do hope, and I hope that you stay tuned for webinars upcoming from each of those catalytic projects and allow those project leads to really get into the technical details of those projects, and I’m gonna share that with you on how they achieve those improved yields and cost reduction to each of those pathways. So, please stay tuned for additional webinars from us.
So, first a little bit of high-level impact through the last few years. So again, to remind you, we are funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office or BETO. We're across eight DOE national labs, and again, we work to connect scientific discovery with market impact. We have more than 130 researchers across the labs, and we have an industry advisory board of 14 members. Our impact through the years, we have, I think now over 150 publications since the last time this graphic was updated. And in fact, our H index since 2016 has hit 45 now. More than 4,000 citations and closing in on 5,000.
And importantly, we have a really great recognition here in the R&D 100 special recognition just a couple years ago. With respect to our impact to the market, right, going beyond the fundamental catalyst science, we have three technology licenses, six software inventions, 29 issued patents and patent applications, and 12 awarded projects with industry really showing that integration into industrial research.
And with respect to community resources, we've published three enabling tools, CatCost, our Catalyst Property Database, and our Surface Phase Explorer. We have nine webinars available on our website. This, I guess will be the tenth. And we have directed funding opportunities for those of you that might be listening that work in industry. Please check out our website to learn more about those and ways that we can work together. And importantly working within the consortium, because we have eight national labs, we've streamlined our access to some of the unique national lab capabilities. For example, high-resolution TBM imaging at Oak Ridge National Lab, and beamline science at Argonne National Laboratory.
I wanna touch a little bit on our community engagement. This is important as we think about how we can become a central hub of knowledge for the bioenergy and catalysis community. We've distributed a biannual newsletter called The Accelerator. You can check that out and subscribe to it on our website.
We’re a member of the organizing committee for a series of workshops on rigor and reproducibility and heterogeneous catalysis. This is really great to be a part of. We think that'll really result in the best practices and guidelines for the catalysis community. We've expanded the utility of our Catalyst Property Database, and we've published a manuscript in nature catalysis on our CatCost tool. If you haven't checked out the CatCost tool, I'd really encourage you to do so. It’s a great way to estimate the cost of pre-commercial catalyst materials and understand again where some of those pinch points might be with respect to the production of new catalyst materials that you're working on with your laboratory.
And lastly, we've partnered with ACS and the catalysis division to establish the ACS Catalysis ChemCatBio Graduate Student Travel Award. So, for those of you that are graduate students or postdocs seeking to attend the ACS conference at the national meetings in the spring or in the fall, please check out this student travel award and hopefully we can fund your trip to the national meeting.
On the more technical side, one of the key facets of the last few years was meeting these 70 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction versus petroleum baseline. And what we can do is look at each of our catalytic technologies. Again, we've worked closely on that applied engineering side of our research, put together process models, techno-economic analyses, and life cycle assessments. And what we show that for our catalytic fast pyrolysis, our syngas upgrading, and our ethanol upgrading. We already show paths and technologies that exceed that 70 percent reduction in GHG emissions.
Now in what we call our CUBI projects, or catalytic upgrading of biochemical intermediates, they fall a little bit below that. But the researchers there have identified the additional options within the process model that can push each one of these individual pathways that we're looking at, again, through butanediol, through furans, or through volatile fatty acids, where we can push each one of these above that 70 percent GHG emissions, whether it be by electrification of some process steps, incorporation of renewable natural gas as a feedstock or as a power source.
And so, we can really identify ways to reduce those greenhouse gas emissions, some well over 100 percent reduction. I think that's really a great achievement across all of the pathways that we're exploring in the ChemCatBio Consortium. One thing, when we talk about the acceleration of the catalyst and process development cycle, it can be difficult to metrify, right? And difficult to quantify. So, one way we tried to do that was to look within and look at our own projects and understand how are we able to accelerate this development cycle within our own series and our own suites of projects. And so, what I'm showing here is a timeline from FY17, 2017, through the end of FY20, so about a three-and-a-half-year timeline, and where we monitored certain catalyst development metrics from durability and regeneration metrics and technology maturation metrics such as a license of the technology.
And what we did is we looked back at this particular project, which is one of our upgrading of C2 intermediates—an ethanol conversion project—and we compared that to one of our previous projects studying, for example, through a syngas upgrading route. And here we showed that based on the collaborative resources that we developed through that syngas upgrading route, first, we were able to demonstrate a 4x reduction in time for the development of a next-gen catalyst in the ethanol production pathway.
And so specifically here, we improved the C3+ olefin selectivity as an intermediate for SAF production from ethanol, again, leveraging the collaborative resources of ChemCatBio, whereas in the other project it took much longer time to get to each one of these stage gates as ChemCatBio was still kind of coming together. Within our computational project some highlights here is development of a methodology for accurate determination of bioenergy specific kinetics and applying those in multiple reactor scale-up models—again, a multi-scale approach to computational modeling.
Some of the key outcomes from this group are the multi-component effectiveness vector, which is a new mathematical tool to analyze diffusion limitations for cascade reaction mechanisms; kinetics in both fluidized bed and fixed head models; and validated methodology kinetics, again, at multiple scales. And this group has really shown some great impact from this computational work, offering predictive guidance for key decision making in our catalytic fast pyrolysis scaleup and verification effort. And they applied these capabilities to enable scaleup of bioenergy processes for two industrial partners, Pyran and Catalyxx. And those can be seen here, a separate webinar highlighting just that work from the energy.gov website. Please check that out if you're interested to learn more about the great work here from our computational group, the Consortium for Computational Physics and Chemistry.
We have a great effort working in catalyst deactivation and mitigation thereof, and that'll be part of our next few years as well, but this work here really sets the foundation for what we're looking to do over the next few years. Again, highlighting the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of our projects, our teams worked collaboratively to improve catalyst lifetime and address the overarching catalyst deactivation challenges, specifically establishing structure–performance relationships and precise descriptions of how potassium interacts with different catalyst active sites in a multi-functional catalyst material existing of a metal and acid sites.
And through a series of experiments, they showed how potassium and other, really as a representative example of the impact of inorganics that come along with biomass, how these can affect these different types of acid sites. And I point to these two papers in ACS Catalysis. This first one, page 465, is the specific work here of potassium and understanding potassium deactivation modes. And then this later paper here, 13,555, that's a review article. And so, I really encourage you to check out both of these to learn more about the great work led out of PNNL in our catalyst deactivation project.
Okay. The catalyst property database, this is a new online tool released in September of 2020. It's designed to accelerate catalysis R&D with a centralized, searchable repository of catalyst properties. You might have your favorite research groups that you go to to perhaps look at how some absorbate and energetics and some of the modeling results. But what we wanna do is pull those together, make those searchable, and allow everyone to use that data in a very easily to interact with format. And so, we currently house this theoretically computed, which is to say, published and peer reviewed, very important, adsorption energies for reaction intermediates on catalytic surfaces. And importantly, in the fall of 2021, we opened that for community data addition. Again, we have a webinar specific to this catalyst property database and how you can use it. Check that out please, from our website.
And this is the link in the web address to access the CPD, and I encourage you to check that out and see how you can use that in your own research. Switching gears a little bit now looking ahead over the next three years of our R&D. So, our focus areas now are really moving and maturing our technologies from the improved yields and reduced costs that we demonstrated through the last three years into process integration and fuel production using engineered catalysts to help enhance our industrial partnerships.
And we always, of course, we wanna maintain our role as a central hub of knowledge and continue to build that. So, first let's talk about engineered catalysts and how we can advance and de-risk some of the technologies we've been developing. And it really becomes, the question we're trying to address is how can we bridge the gap between the lab-scale powders that we're using and pilot-scale formed catalysts? And so, what do we mean by an engineered catalyst or a formed catalyst?
When we think about developing research catalysts, this is really the upper left part of the pie chart, right? We think about a support and an active phase, perhaps that's a metal species that we want to put on the appropriate support that either won't react in the reaction that we want to proceed or will help the metal site perhaps through a metal support interaction to be more active and achieve the chemistry that we wanna perform. But when we move from that research catalyst into a truly engineered or technical catalyst, that's now a multi-component catalyst. And all of these other additives are important to provide the structural components for operation and commercial reactor, right?
We need to consider mass and heat transfer. We need to maintain that functionality that we may have developed here at the simple research catalyst. We need to maintain that as we move to the formed species. And we need to think about mechanical properties like strength, nutrition, resistance, right? And so, that's what we mean by an engineered catalyst. And so, within our consortium, we thought about a few different options of how we can kind of work with these engineered catalysts. So, the first option, of course, would be to evaluate off-the-shelf commercial materials from industrial partners.
If we can take those types of materials, perhaps make some modifications that introduce another functionality that allow it to work for the specific chemistry we're looking to perform, that's a great way to know that success in the development of that catalyst can likely be handed off back to industrial partners, and we think that we can make more of a faster commercial impact. When that's not available another option would be to work with an industrial partner who can help us make this transition from lab-scale powders to engineered formulations and help us iterate on that performance testing to develop a commercial ready material.
Again, that's another, a great way. Provides a lot more, necessitates a lot more buy-in from the industrial partner. And so, a third option that we thought of is, in the absence of an industrial partner who's ready to do that, how can we take the first steps there? Especially for pre-commercial catalysts, how can we develop the in-house capability to determine the initial structure–property performance relationships that help us inform that transition from the powder to the engineer?
And we were motivated by an example out of my project actually where we had developed a copper-modified beta zeolite catalyst, which we call copper BEA, copper beta. When we tried to transition this from the powder material we'd been working with in the lab to a formed material for pilot-scale operations, this was non-trivial, and shown here on the right-hand side with the plot we had observed a big difference in our productivity on a gravimetric basis for our desired C5+ hydrocarbon product.
The activity was about half for the extradated catalyst as it was for the powder that we've been using in the laboratory. And this was, luckily for us, we were able to circumvent this and still continue with the pilot project, but really identified the need to answer some of these specific questions to advance the technologies with engineered catalysts, and how can we do this more smartly so that when we address, when we approach industrial partners, we can already identify certain challenges that we've already overcome.
And so, as we build that into our next few years of research, our objective is to enable our ChemCatBio pathway technologies to evaluate catalytic performance of realistic engineered catalysts, not necessarily the full finished formed product, but how do we develop the initial structure–property relationships with our engineered forms? So, we're gonna leverage our unique capabilities, our ability to synthesize extradate materials, our ability to test those and to model those both at the atomic scale here, where we can consider a catalyst pellet and how heat and mass transfer might be affected by the porosity, but also at the reactor scale and how would these types of engineering materials be utilized in large-scale reactors?
So, this effort will help us address that non-trivial transition from research engineered catalysts. And one of the key challenges is maintaining our highly tailored catalyst functionalities that we can do really perfectly at the powder scale, right? How do we maintain those in the engineered forms? And our goal is to reduce the risk of commercialization by reducing those initial uncertainties in making that transition, mitigating the loss of activity or selectivity or lifetime due to these other species that have to come along into the form material and maintaining that, mitigating the change in active site structure.
And I wanna highlight just our first-year goal is to go back to that copper beta zeolite like catalyst and determine some of the impact of that engineered catalyst formulation specifically on the copper speciation. Are we getting different copper metal particle sizes as one example? Are we losing some copper metal? And then look at how that affects deactivation now that we have a binder and a different type of surface area, how that can affect the deactivation of the catalyst. And we want to correlate that with performance. And this is a multi-project effort within the syngas upgrading project, as well as our enabling capabilities at a highlighted computation and catalyst deactivation mitigation.
Thinking back to our accelerating catalyst design for the next few years. We can go back to this figure from earlier, right? We wanna reduce those barriers. We want to make it easier for the cyclist on rolling hills rather than big, big mountaintop peaks to climb, right? We still have to hit the same goals, but how are we gonna do it?
I wanna highlight the two boxes in red, developing tools that improve research efficiency and mitigating catalyst deactivation through foundational science and applied engineering. So first, one thing that we're envisioning really is what we call a Catalyst Design Engine. And the idea is to support and accelerate our research and development by addressing barriers with the suite of the predictive analytical tools that we've been putting together.
So, I mentioned CatCost a little bit, cost analysis of these pre-commercial materials, coupling that with performance data and structural proper data to help us integrate these data-based technologies with cost estimation—incorporating machine learning tools to really transform catalyst design and deployment. And when we think about this, the analogy would be, we don't want fewer catalyst scientists. We want more catalyst scientists because we want this type of design engine to give us better ideas. We wanna be able, often when we think about a certain chemical transformation we wanna make, we might come up with 1,000 different catalyst ideas we'd want to try.
Probably can't try all 1,000 of them in a very efficient way. So, how can this type of integration of tools help us narrow that down to our best five, six, or ten options first? And now we have not just decisions being made on a hunch of what might work, but actually having the data, whether it be structural property, cost-based information as well, that can really help us narrow down our ideas to our best five or six ideas to move forward with and move our research projects with, again, based on data and this type of integration of these database technologies.
So, where we've come from and where we're going for the next few years here. Way back in 2015, we first released our Service Phase Explorer. When we started CatCost in 2016, we released that in 2018, made some progress through the last few years, as I mentioned, with the Catalyst Property Database, opening that to external uploads, and now moving forward here in the green section of the timeline, seeking to release the first public Catalyst Design Engine demonstration that incorporates some catalyst deactivation and mitigation.
And then at the end of 2025 again looking to use this Catalyst Design Engine for a specific catalytic technology project. So, a lot more to come in this effort over the next three years. Thinking back now to the risks of deactivation, that's gonna be critical as we seek to advance the technologies that we've developed with industrial partners and engineered catalysts. And so, it's really a critical knowledge gap for a lot of what we do in catalysis research because among the three virtues we typically study of activity, selectivity, and stability, we tend to focus the least amount of time on stability because it's the most time intensive, right?
It's [sic] very difficult questions to answer and requires a really dedicated team to study this. And in our world seeking to convert biomass, these bring unique challenges associated with catalytic activation because as I mentioned way back in the beginning, that different chemistry that we need to do, removing all of that oxygen from the biopolymers.
And so, our proposed solution is to create a catalyst deactivation mitigation resource that has targeted insights, techniques, and tools that can be shared across the community. And some of the overarching challenges that we've identified, especially for biomass, are coke, contaminants, and water. These are really, we think about these as interwoven challenges that affect the catalyst durability in many, if not all, of our biomass conversion pathways, but each one a little bit differently. So how we know, we ask ourselves, how can we address these overarching challenges?
When we think about coke there's different types of coke depending on exactly which reaction you're performing, and under what conditions and what byproducts. And so, our approach is to determine different properties, distribution, and how to remove that. And we found that in some of our catalysts because we have multi-functional catalyst materials, the presence of a metal can actually help reduce the temperature for coke removals. We actually have an added benefit.
I've already highlighted some of the work we've done with our contaminants determining distribution and interaction with active sites, first example studying potassium. And so, we wanna provide a database on these types of catalyst properties and interaction with contaminants. And then when we think about water in these types of conversion processes there is good existing literature on how water can affect a variety of different reactions. And so, we seek to build upon that, but with the specificity to the biomass feedstocks and the conversion processes that we're studying.
And so again, we think about an iterative approach that utilizes our unique capabilities both in computation, catalyst synthesis, and characterization. And multiscale computational modeling, right? And catalyst evaluation. The first step is really to identify these deactivation mechanisms using these types of approaches, understanding performance at the right time scales to understand deactivation. We then seek to improve the catalyst lifetime. So, studying regeneration and developing regeneration protocols that, again, don't disrupt the active site and can regenerate those same active sites.
And sometimes we have to think about the process design in these regeneration approaches. Maybe we need a different type of reactor. Maybe we need different temperature ranges that we wanna operate at to regenerate, right? So, we can take all of that into account when we think about regeneration protocols. And lastly, to demonstrate the impact, we take these research results, and we can put those into our techno-economic models, our life cycle assessment models, and this will really help inform and grow our central hub of knowledge around this concept of deactivation.
So, some more specific goals from us is, obviously for our own technologies that we're developing, we want to continue to advance those towards commercialization, and this is a key hurdle to pass, to generate the knowledge that we can then translate to industrial partners. I've mentioned those overarching catalyst deactivation issues and we want to continue to address those specific to the biomass feedstocks and conversion processes. Really seeking to establish a set of laboratory accessible tools and techniques that can evaluate stability and make improvements both within our own projects and then things that we can share in the catalysis community.
Ultimately, we want to avoid the pitfalls during technology maturation, right? Increasing awareness about these deactivation challenges and early-stage research, and really building those back into some even of our initial catalyst evaluation research. I wanna talk about some of our industry engagement. I'm happy to say that our consortium has demonstrated industry engagement across all of our catalytic technologies. Each one of those has well-engaged industry partnerships, and we still seek to build new partnerships towards commercialization.
There's a number of different types of partnerships that we have from ChemCatBio. I wanna highlight each one here a little bit. Our Industry Advisory Board, they're critical to help us really define our strategy. These are volunteers that help advise us to be industry relevant and they're representatives on fuel and chemical industry both large industrial and startups.
To work together, one of our major ways to partner is a cooperative research and development agreement, or a CRADA. These are typically funds-in from a partner to projects in our consortium to perform R&D specific to that technology. Similar to that is what we call our directed funding opportunities or DFOs. So, now these are funds from BETO to generate a new ChemCatBio project that's based on a joint proposal between industry and ChemCatBio researchers.
And this is one again, if you're an industry member out there listening to this webinar, this is a way for us to work together to help solve a specific industry problem for you leveraging our unique capabilities. Our licensing and tech transfer types of engagements, those are complimentary to the CRADAs. This is external development or commercialization agreements from a technology of ours. Doesn't require us to participate, but we're always happy to help take those next steps and partner with industry toward commercialization.
And then lastly, what we call our accelerator partnership. This is a new one for us and this, we're very excited to kick this off now this fiscal year. This is a strategic consortium-level partnership that support our enabling capabilities, not a specific pathway or technology, but rather those enabling capabilities. It's important to note here that no funds change hands in this type of partnership, and the goal is really to develop the joint value for ChemCatBio and partner. And so, to present those a little bit more detailed, again, these support our enabling capabilities, catalyst characterization, synthesis, computational modeling, catalyst evaluation, and benchmarking.
And our first three accelerated partners are Johnson Matthew, Micromeritics, and IBM. And so, we're really excited to begin this work with them side by side with these industry partners to advance our capabilities in these areas that are needed to support the bioenergy technologies and the advancement of our technologies as well. So, closing up, I just wanna highlight a few more things available on our website.
Our technology briefs—these provide easy access reports on our emerging catalytic technologies. Keep an eye out for these. We hope to publish a few more of these this year. High-level findings from our recent publications kinda brought together in an easy-to-digest webpage. And it also identifies risks, challenges, and next steps. Also on our website, in our Accelerator newsletter, we publish that biannually for news and research reports. And I want to note to those of you out there, graduate students and postdocs, we take your involvement in this consortium very, very close to heart, and we highlight our Catalysts of Change, our outstanding early career researchers.
Please do check out some of the folks that are really devoting their time to these big problems that we're trying to solve in our newsletter. So, to summarize, I think catalysis is gonna play an enabling role in decarbonizing the fuel and chemical sectors, and biomass as a feedstock introduces unique challenges for catalytic technologies. But our consortium is seeking to accelerate the catalyst and process development cycle to help shorten that time to market for these renewable technologies.
Again, please subscribe to our newsletter. It's only twice a year. We're not trying to swamp your inbox. Happy to answer any questions via email as my contact. I want to thank our director, Josh Schaidle; the Bioenergy Technologies Office for funding—Kevin, Sonia, Trevor, and Ian; our IAB members and our collaborators who are instrumental in the success of our work; and of course, our steering committee, each one of those folks noted here, critical to the success of our consortium.
Again, I want to thank the funding from the Bioenergy Technologies Office. Here's a recent picture of our team at our last face-to-face meeting. Happy to answer some questions now if we have some time.
Erik: Yeah. Thanks, Dan for that great presentation, high-level overview of the consortium. I think we do have time for just one or two questions, so if you have a question, please put it in the Q&A box and we can dive right into that. But just to get things started, Dan can you talk a little bit more about how the catalytic technology projects work with enabling capabilities you talked about?
Dan: Yeah. Thanks, Erik. Yeah, that's a good one. There really are integrative and collaborative projects. Each one of those pathway technologies doesn't exist on an island. We really work closely to incorporate the enabling capabilities, whether that be synthesis or specific characterization to some of the catalysts being developed in those pathways, computational understanding. Again, I mentioned that really critical to remember there is really the multiple scales, whether it be atomic scale modeling of catalyst surface species or reactor scale modeling of how these catalysts are gonna work at scale. And so, these are really interwoven together and the successes within the catalytic technologies are also successes of our enabling capabilities, and they really work together to advance those.
Erik: Okay. And then let's just maybe ask one more. I know we're right at the end here, but what is your preferred method for scaling catalysts? Do you see industry assisting with that? Is that something that ChemCatBio wants to do in-house?
Dan: Yeah, I think industry partnerships are gonna be key for us there. On our industry advisory board, we have a number of folks in industry and some of them who have really detailed and special knowledge of how industry approaches scaleup and engineered catalysts. They can only tell us so much at a time, right? They have to protect their own interests. But that's where we see industrial partnerships being critical to our success in engineered catalysts. And so, our efforts that I highlighted here today are really to take those first steps from the perfect powders that we use to the engineered forms and break down those first few barriers and make those first few advancements to open the doors to industry partners that can help us take the next step and really make those finished, polished catalysts.
Erik: We are out of time, but I do want to thank you, Dan, for sharing those insights with us and just for everyone who joined today. If you have a question that didn't get answered, I encourage you to go to our website. There's all of our contact information there.
You can also email Dan directly. His email is on the slide here. And just as a reminder, a recording of this presentation will be posted to the webinar section of the ChemCatBio website as soon as it is available. And I'd like to take just one more plug for the ChemCatBio newsletter called The Accelerator. Just a great resource to keep tabs on any further updates to the consortium. If you look at the chat section, there's a link to that newsletter there.
So, with that I think we'll take our leave. Happy holidays to everyone and have a great rest of your day. And remember to stay tuned for future ChemCatBio webinars. Thanks, everyone.
Dan: Thank you.
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