Theodore Walker

Assistant Professor

Biomedical and Chemical Engineering

353 Link Hall


Education / Experience

  • Senior Scientist, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Annandale, NJ, 2019-2022
  • Ph.D., Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Wisconsin – Madison, 2019
  • B.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2015

Areas of Expertise: 

  • Heterogeneous Catalysis
  • Reaction Kinetics and microkinetic analysis
  • Experimental Determination of Reaction Mechanisms
  • Advanced liquid- and solid-state NMR spectroscopy
  • Solvent Effects in Liquid-Phase Catalytic Processes
  • Biomass conversion to renewable energy and chemicals
  • Complex plastic waste recycling

The Walker lab studies the fundamental, mechanistic details underlying heterogeneously catalyzed reactions of biomass, waste plastics, and other sources of non-fossil-based organic carbon for renewable fuels and chemicals production. We leverage our group’s strengths in solvent effects, advanced spectroscopic methods, and materials synthesis to develop novel catalysts that enable atom-efficient conversion of renewable feedstocks into fungible products while resisting deactivation by poisons.

Our experimental approach combines catalyst synthesis, characterization, and reaction kinetics measurements. We collaborate extensively with theorists to combine our experimental measurements with quantum-chemical and/or molecular dynamics simulations, toward a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental bases by which catalysts transform raw materials into products. Current research topics include:

  • Alkali-metal-resistant, bi-functional metal and acid catalysts for hydropyrolysis of waste plastics and biomass
  • Grafting of polymer brushes onto support catalysts to direct selectivity and mitigate deactivation by poisons in liquid-phase processing of renewable oxygenates
  • Solvent-fractionation of complex, solid waste mixtures into pure, corresponding component streams for subsequent catalytic processing
  • Electrochemical production of renewable polymers precursors and other platform molecules

Selected Publications

  1. Walker, Theodore W., et al. “Recycling of multilayer plastic packaging materials by solvent-targeted recovery and precipitation.” Science advances 6.47 (2020): eaba7599.
  • Walker, Theodore W., et al. “Solid-state NMR studies of solvent-mediated, acid-catalyzed woody biomass pretreatment for enzymatic conversion of residual cellulose.” ACS sustainable chemistry & engineering 8.16 (2020): 6551-6563.
  • Walker, Theodore W., et al. “Universal kinetic solvent effects in acid-catalyzed reactions of biomass-derived oxygenates.” Energy & Environmental Science 11.3 (2018): 617-628.
  • Walker, Theodore W., et al. “Fundamental catalytic challenges to design improved biomass conversion technologies.” Journal of Catalysis 369 (2019): 518-525.
  • Walker, Theodore W., et al. “Rational design of mixed solvent systems for acid-catalyzed biomass conversion processes using a combined experimental, molecular dynamics and machine learning approach.” Topics in Catalysis 63.7 (2020): 649-663.