Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Author's School

McKelvey School of Engineering

Author's Department

Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Type



This thesis is motivated by concerns regarding the need to develop more sustainable and economic technologies to meet rising global manufacturing and energy demands. These concerns have renewed governmental, industrial, and societal determination to reduce the world’s dependence on conventional natural resources and has led to considerable research on producing fuels and chemicals from feedstocks other than petroleum. Lignocellulosic biomass represents an abundant and renewable resource that could displace petroleum feedstock producing biofuels and multiple valuable chemical products with reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Lignin is the second abundant biopolymer source in nature and is found almost everywhere. Since the 1950’s, there have been reports of lignin depolymerization research to develop valorization technologies that convert lignin in energy, fuels, and chemicals through thermal and biological approached. Most of these technologies targeting chemical production have insufficient processing and economic performance for widespread adoption, in part due to lack product selectivity that results from lignin depolymerization. Heterogeneous metal catalysis is an ideal solution for improving lignin depolymerization process performance by promoting more selective reactions under lower energy input. Among different kinds of catalytic systems, a copper-doped porous metal catalyst has been researched often due to the ability to product hydrogen via alcohol reforming and perform hydrogenolysis for lignin depolymerization at aryl-ether linkages. Process. However, the use of nickel in other catalytic systems suggest a nickel-doped catalyst might have a greater ability hydrogenolysis on aryl-ether linkages, further reducing the lignin linkage activation energy and improving product selectivity. This thesis will focus on the development of a bimetallic catalyst with copper and nickel co-doped on a hydrotalcite support, testing the hypothesis that a bimetallic catalyst containing copper and nickel will have better reforming ability than a catalyst containing only nickel and will have better hydrogenolysis of aryl-ether ability than a catalyst containing only copper. Chapter I will present a detailed overview of the background and motivation of lignin structure and conversion. Chapter II will present detailed research on the performance of copper and nickel bimetallic catalysts for the hydrogenolysis of a lignin aryl-ether model compound. Chapter III will present unfinished work and future plan about using the catalysts been made in Chapter II for real lignin test.


English (en)


Marcus B Foston

Committee Members

Marcus B Foston, Yinjie Tang Daniel Giammar