TAN KAH KEE Science Award


New Concept of Catalysis by Nano-Confinement and Its Application in Methane Conversion

Abstract:Starting from carbon nanotube-confined metal nanoparticles as the catalyst for the direct conversion of syngas to ethanol, Professor Xinhe Bao and his team studied systematically the structural and electronic properties of catalytically active centers in the nano-confined systems, as well as their catalytic activities. These studies introduced a new concept of "Nano-Confined Catalysis". A novel catalyst has been designed by embedding low-valent iron atoms within the lattice of silicon dioxide. The active single iron site could catalyze the direct and selective conversion of methane to high-value chemicals under non-oxidative conditions and thus allow the removal of the energy-intensive process of syngas production from the conventional natural gas utilization technologies. Professor Bao established the concept of nano-composite catalysts comprising of metal oxides and zeolites, which effectively separate the active sites for CO and H2 activation from those for C?C coupling. As such, surface polymerization, a long-standing problem in the conventional F-T synthesis invented more than 90 years ago, could be circumvented, and the novel process for syngas conversion could achieve a high selectivity of light olefins (80%). These achievements open up new avenues for the developments of clean technologies for the efficient utilization of carbon resources, such as natural gas, coal and biomass, and are recognized as the "milestone in the direct synthesis of light olefins". Now, his team is collaborating with companies to explore industrial applications, starting from a pilot-scale study.

Awardee:Professor Xinhe Bao received his PhD in Physical Chemistry from Fudan University in 1987 and then worked as a Fellow of Alexander von Humboldt at the Fritz-Haber institute of Max-Planck Society in Berlin, Germany. He became a full Professor at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (DICP, CAS) in China in 1995, and the group leader of Nano & Interface Catalysis at the State Key Laboratory of Catalysis later. He also served as the director of DICP from 2000 to 2007, and the President of Shenyang Branch of CAS from 2009 to 2014. He was appointed as the Executive Vice President of Fudan University in 2015 and is currently the President of University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). Professor Xinhe Bao is a member of CAS and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), and the Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (Hon. FRSC).

Professor Xinhe Bao is dedicated to the exploration of new catalytic materials and efficient processes for energy conversion. The team he leads is unique in that they combine theoretical calculations, model catalysis and technical catalysis, which has led to a number of breakthroughs with both scientific and industrial impact. Professor Xinhe Bao has published more than 600 scientific papers with a citation over 18000 times and filed over 170 patents. He is the Editor-in-chief of Journal of Energy Chemistry (JEC), and his name is listed in the editorial board or international advisory board of several international scientific journals. The awards he has received include National Science Award, Scientific and Technological Progress Award in Chemistry from Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation, Award in Basic Sciences from Zhou Guangzhao Foundation, Outstanding Science and Technology Achievement Prize of CAS, Outstanding Contribution Award of Chinese Chemical Society-China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, Outstanding Achievement Award of International Natural Gas Conversion and Alwin Mittasch Prize.

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