The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ChE Grad Student Publishes in Two High-impact Journals

Paul Dornath, a chemical engineering graduate student in Professor Wei Fan’s lab, has recently published articles in two high impact journals in the field of biomass catalysis and Li-O2 batteries. Dornath was first author on a publication in Green Chemistry. Dornath’s article was highlighted by the journal as cover art.

The research described by Dornath in this article pursued the development of a novel cellulose pretreatment technique and adsorption-enhanced breakdown of cellulose and large glucan oligomers to selectively produce glucose, an essential process for the utilization of lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock for renewable high value chemicals.

This process is known for its complexity due to the low solubility of cellulose and the difficulty in designing heterogeneous catalyst surfaces capable of interacting strongly with cellulose and glucan. This challenging task was accomplished by co-impregnation of cellulose with a small amount of acid and glucose followed by ball-milling to rapidly form alpha(1-6) branched beta(1-4) glucan oligomers. These high soluble (up to 15 wt% in water) oligomers can be easily broken down by ordered mesoporous carbon functionalized with sulfonic acid groups.

“The resulting 90-percent glucose yield in one hour is one of the most efficient processes for the production of glucose from cellulose reported to date and represents a major contribution to the field of mechanocatalytic pretreatment of cellulose,” says Dornath.

Dornath was also contributing author in a publication in Agnewandte Chemie (impact factor 11.34,

This research explored the use of three dimensionally ordered (3DOm) carbon coated with FeOx films as cathode materials for Li-O2 batteries that have excellent capacity and cyclability, capable over 6000 mAh/g for over 68 cycles. The 3DOm carbon materials prepared by Dornath were crucial for the investigation.

“3DOm carbon distinguishes itself from other carbon materials with well-defined pore structures, providing a unique material to gain insight into processes key to the operations of Li–O2 batteries,” as explained in the abstract. “The 3DOm carbon materials have an extremely high surface area and conductivity, which makes it ideal for various applications including battery, and super capacitors. They are an important materials for sustainable energy and environment.” (March 2015)

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