Improving Rigor and Reproducibility Can Accelerate Catalytic Research

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June 13, 2022

The Accelerator a newsletter from ChemCatBio

Improving Rigor and Reproducibility Can Accelerate Catalytic Research

Cody Wrasman, Jacklyn Hall and Josh Schaidle

Achieving the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium's (ChemCatBio's) mission of accelerating catalyst and process development relies on rigorously collected and reproducible catalytic data. However, the best practices for collecting, processing, and reporting catalytic data can be difficult to find and are rarely assembled in a single location. Instead, methods are often passed down within institutions and vital experimental details are occasionally missing in published protocols. As a result, new researchers in the field face hurdles to starting their research as they search for reliable experimental protocols or attempt to reproduce results from the literature. Furthermore, catalytic performance for new materials and techniques are seldom compared to known standards, which can make contextualizing new results difficult.

To address these challenges, researchers from ChemCatBio and more than 30 other research institutions, funding organizations, and scientific publishers met at the Rigor and Reproducibility in Heterogeneous Catalysis Workshop in July 2022, supported by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences, to establish a common core of best practices for conducting high quality catalytic research. We discussed a variety of topics, including the minimum amount of detail expected when publishing experimental methods, the use of benchmark experiments to relate new findings to the established literature, and the experimental data needed to enable future re-analysis and comparison. The results of the workshop were collected into a single publicly available report, Addressing Rigor and Reproducibility in Thermal, Heterogeneous Catalysis. In addition to establishing best practices for conducting catalytic research, the report also aims to collect valuable reference material covering a variety of techniques as well as pitfalls for many common catalytic experiments in a single place for current and future researchers.

The application of the recommendations published in this report will enable the acceleration of catalytic research by 1) lowering the barrier to new researchers joining the field, 2) providing best practices for conducting and reporting catalytic research, 3) and establishing benchmarking recommendations to allow for fair catalyst comparison. We encourage the bioenergy catalysis community to utilize the recommendations of this report to maintain rigorous and reproducible research in our field as we work towards the rapid decarbonization of our economy.

Thank you for your partnership!

Cody Wrasman, Postdoctoral Researcher, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Jacklyn Hall, Postdoctoral Researcher, Argonne National Laboratory

Josh Schaidle, ChemCatBio Director

Renewable Revelation

Nearly 90% of chemistry researchers report having failed to reproduce an experiment from the literature and over half to reproduce one of their own experiments.

Source: M. Baker. 2016. “1,500 Scientists Lift the Lid on Reproducibility.Nature 533: 452–454.


New ChemCatBio Technology Briefs: Catalyst Deactivation and Syngas Upgrading

Two new ChemCatBio technology briefs summarize and contextualize recent advances and insights in catalytic technologies in an interactive, easy-to-read format.

ChemCatBio Supports Students at ACS Spring Meeting

In partnership with the ACS Division of Catalysis Science and Technology (CATL), ChemCatBio awarded ten travel awards to graduate students to attend the ACS spring meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. Awardees received certificates at the CATL division reception and connected with ChemCatBio researchers during an informal coffee meetup. View a photo of the recipients.

ChemCatBio Presents at the Bioenergy Technologies Office 2023 Peer Review

ChemCatBio researchers gave detailed progress updates on consortium research and development (R&D) during the U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office 2023 Project Peer Review in Denver, Colorado. Presentations will be available on ChemCatBio's R&D portfolio page in the coming weeks.

Did You Miss the December ChemCatBio Webinar?

In December, Deputy Director Dan Ruddy shared highlights from the last three years of consortium R&D and presented plans for the next three years. Visit the webinars page to access presentations slides as well as a recording of the webinar.

Upcoming Events

ChemCatBio Webinar—Perspectives on Engineered Catalyst Design and Forming

Join Bruce Adkins (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Frederick Baddour (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), and Matthew Greaney (Clariant) on June 14, 2023, 12–12:45 p.m. MT for a webinar on perspectives on engineered catalyst design and forming. In this webinar, speakers will present (1) critical considerations for the “engineered” catalyst, (2) an industrial perspective on catalyst design and forming and (3) ChemCatBio’s industry-informed capabilities that support the transition to more commercially relevant catalyst forms. Register and learn more.

The 28th North American Catalysis Society Meeting

ChemCatBio members will attend and present at the 28th North American Catalysis Society Meeting,  from June 18–23 in Providence, Rhode Island. View the conference technical program.

Catalysts of Change: Outstanding Early Career Researchers

In this section, we spotlight interns, graduate students, and early career researchers whose outstanding contributions are driving ChemCatBio’s mission to accelerate the catalyst and process development cycle for bioenergy applications.

Fan Lin

Fan Lin, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Fan Lin is a staff engineer who joined Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to work on heterogeneous catalysis for biomass conversion and emission control. He hopes to gain insight into the catalyst deactivation mechanism in the biomass conversion process and develop approaches for deactivation mitigation and catalyst regeneration. In Fan’s research career at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, he has published several high-impact papers on reaction fundamentals and catalyst deactivation behaviors in oxygenate conversion to fuels and chemicals.

Michelle Nolen

Michelle Nolen, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Michelle Nolen is a graduate student at the Colorado School of Mines. She joined the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to work on atomic-scale modelling of heterogeneous catalysts for CO2 conversion processes. She hopes to apply her education towards improving catalysts for efficient carbon utilization technology and to inspire other young women to pursue careers in STEM.

Recent Research Highlights

Illustration of Cost-Responsive Optimization of Nickel Nanoparticle Synthesis, with a beaker in the middle.

Cost-Responsive Optimization of Nickel Nanoparticle SynthesisAdvanced Sustainable Systems, 2023

Illustration showing refinement process for 2,3 Butianediol into fuelstock


Production and Catalytic Upgrading of 2,3-Butanediol Fermentation Broth Into Sustainable Aviation Fuel Blendstock and Fuel Properties Measurement, Fuel, 2023


Flowchart showing production of sustainable jet fuels via electrolysis, syngas fermentation and catalytic ethanol upgrading

Electrifying the Production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel: The Risks, Economics, and Environmental Benefits of Emerging Pathways Including CO2, Energy & Environmental Science, 2022


Scientists from ORNL, Pyran, and RPD Technologies pose in front of the pilot-scale reactor testbed

Computational Modeling Scales Renewable Chemical Process 1,000x in a Single Step

Startup firm Pyran recently took a huge leap forward in the development of its technology to make plant-based industrial chemicals, achieving an unparalleled 1,000-times scaleup of its reactor in a single step. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office’s Consortium for Computational Physics and Chemistry, Pyran partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists to create a simulation that accurately suggested modifications to its industrial processes.

A wind turbine in a field

New Consortium Advances Technologies that Use Renewable Electricity to Turn Carbon Dioxide into Fuel

A new consortium of five U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories is developing an integrated portfolio of technologies that use renewable electricity to upgrade carbon dioxide (CO2) into fuels and chemicals. The CO2 Reduction and Upgrading for e-Fuels Consortium (CO2RUe) is funded by DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office and supports their goal of producing 35 billion gallons of cost-competitive sustainable aviation fuel by 2050 while lowering greenhouse gas emissions by at least 70%.

The Accelerator is a newsletter of ChemCatBio, a consortium of eight DOE national labs dedicated to accelerating the catalyst and process development cycle for bioenergy applications. ChemCatBio is part of the Energy Materials Network, funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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