Manuel Moliner
2011, Spain
Synthesizing selective nanomaterials for industry

Synthesis of selective nanomaterials for industrial use

Fossil fuels can count their days as a key piece of the energy system. Industry knows that, and gets ready for that moment. Manuel Moliner, PhD in Chemical Sciences at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain), works at the Chemical Technology Institute (ITQ-CSIC) where he focused his research to the creation of selective nanomaterials which allow saving time and, at the same time, become feasible alternatives to the dependence on coal, gas and oil.

Ninety percent of all chemical products are obtained through catalytic processes, which implies that improving these catalyzers is a key challenge. This is precisely what Moliner achieved, with the design of inorganic catalyzers – among which, zeolyte ITQ-33 – which have managed to improve the efficiency of processes such as the refining and cracking of crude oil for diesel and petrol, which allows saving natural resources and minimise the generation of residual compounds as well as CO2 emissions. Such benefits have been well understood by oil multinational ExxonMobile, who has already issued four patents for the ITQ-33 zeolyte synthesised by Moliner by using, additionally, pioneering techniques which find their fundamentals in scientific hypotheses rather than purely combinatory processes.

However, Moliner also works on the other side of the barricade. ‘‘The great goal is to obtain high added value chemicals from biomass, like for instance biofuels'', he says. Along this line, during his stay at the California Technology Institute (CALTECH), Moliner developed an inorganic catalyzer – as he wrote inn the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) magazine in 2010 – based on efficient tin centres for the isomerisation of glucose into fructose, which makes the transformation of biomass more efficient and opens a broad spectrum of industrial applications. Among these, the elaboration or plastic polymers, biofuels, or corn syrup rich in fructose (HFCS), which is used as liquid sweetener in an endless number of soft drinks and groceries.

According to Javier Garcia Martinez, Director of the Molecular Nanotechnology Laboratory at the University of Alicante (Spain) and co-founder of Rive Technology, as well as member of the TR35 Spain competition jury, Manuel Moliner is an “excellent'” candidate, renowned for his work in “one of the main research centres in Spain” where he registered a high number of patents with strong industrial applications and has stood out for the ''number and quality of his publications”.