Michael Schön was born in Vienna (Austria) in 1984. He finished his diploma studies in “Synthesis of active substances” at the University of Applied Sciences for Biotechnology (FH Campus Vienna) in 2007. Since April 2008 he is working on his PhD thesis in the research group of Marko Mihovilovic conducting research in the field of new strategies for the conversion of biopolymer-monomers to furan derivatives used as biofuels and industrial chemicals.
"New Strategies for the Conversion of Biopolymer-Monomers to Furan Derivatives used as Biofuels and Industrial Chemicals"
This project aims at the research for methods to replace fossil crude oil with biorenewables as a source for fuels, industrial chemicals, polymers and similar products. Several biopolymers can be hydrolyzed to deliver monomers that lead to a variety of chemicals after conversion. Due to the fact that hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) – together with some functionally related compounds – is an important precursor for major transformations, diverse strategies for synthesis and processing are to be established.
Such reactions are either based on “conventional” chemical transformations or may involve catalytic processes. This proposal aims at the further development of catalytic strategies and complement such approaches by the use of state-of-the-art ionic liquids (ILs), which is favorable for various reasons. Ionic liquids can substitute common and volatile solvents and are much more economical for this matter. Furthermore, recent research shows that ionic liquids, due to their molecular constitution, can be considered as multi-functional entities acting as catalyst and solvent all in one.
Ionic liquids can be prepared according to the demands of the reactions by simply choosing the appropriate anions and cations. To further increase the efficiency and reduce the reaction times, reactions in flow- and batch-reactors are intended to be carried out. Pressure and temperature, as well as catalyst concentration can be adjusted to optimal parameters to facilitate smooth reactions and almost no by-products.
Instable intermediate products are consequently exposed to reaction conditions for a minimum residence time.
To conclude, all these reactions should ultimately be carried out on crude monomers as products of biocatalytic cleavage of the corresponding biopolymers (obtained via an ongoing research program), as the use of purified monomers requires additional energy and lowers the overall yields.
A comparison of general strategies to convert polymers or carbohydrate mixtures derived from fermentations directly or with fewest possible steps to the desired products represents a critical added value of this research endeavor.