Catalysis to Enable a Circular Economy

Contributors: Adelina Voutchkova, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA; Audrey Moores, Associate Professor of Chemistry, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

The pursuit of a circular economy necessitates the development of transformations geared towards the synthesis of benign and non-persistent intermediates and products, as well as transformations that facilitate the breakdown of existing persistent chemicals and polymers. This requires a paradigm shift in the way we design new chemical transformations. Catalytic processes that enable a circular economy should consider both the forward (bond-making) process and reverse (bond breaking) transformations, which can be used to recover the chemical building blocks. The latter will constitute a form of chemical recycling that not only eliminates the need for disposal, but also provides a feedstock that can be reused in circular materials economy. The design of such processes requires a paradigm shift within the catalysis community in order to fill the substantial gap in available processes for catalytic degradation and to ensure that new chemicals and polymers are designed such that they can be chemically or biologically degraded on demand.

This session will convene researchers in homogeneous, heterogeneous and biocatalysis interested in setting the future research agenda of catalysis for the circular economy. Topics of interest will include (but not be limited to) the design of catalytic processes both building and breaking bonds, development of selective and mild catalytic methods for cleavage of synthetic and biopolymers (biomass), and methods for valorization of renewables into benign and non-persistent chemicals (that can be chemically degraded).