Huizhen Liu (China) and Banothile Makhubela (South Africa) have been awarded the 2020 IUPAC-CHEMRAWN VII Award for Green Chemistry in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the field of green chemistry.
Dr. Makhubela is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Science at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. She has published over 35 publications in internationally reputable journals and 2 patents. Her research focuses on aspects of conversion of greenhouse gases into valuable chemicals, conversion of bio-derived molecules into chemicals and fuels as well as computational approaches to elucidate how molecules interact with each other. Dr. Banothile Makhubela performs research in the field of nano- and organometallic-catalysis directed towards catalytic transformation of renewable bio-derived feedstocks. Her catalysts allow access to valuable chemicals, fuels/fuel additives and smart materials prepared from sustainable starting materials. In this area, her team has developed hexanuclear RuII4-ZnII2 complexes that gave very high turnover frequencies for the hydrogenation of levulinic acid. She has already contributed in the area of using bio-based materials for the production of useful chemicals and in further bringing light into how these reactions work at molecular level so as to aid precise and waste-less synthetic process in benign solvents such as water, ionic liquid and deep eutectic solvents. This work contributes to the sustainable development goal of responsible production and consumption.
Dr. Huizhen Liu is a professor at the Institute of Chemistry of the Chinese Academy Sciences. She has published 65 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Her work is focused on the transformation of CO2 and biomass. She is especially well-known for her chemistry in selective catalytic transformations of lignin. Biomass is vital renewable feedstock and lignin is an important component. Lignocellulose is the most abundant form of biomass; cellulose is used to produce paper and many other products. However, lignin is a very challenging material to convert and is often discarded as waste. Most approaches aimed at converting lignin into valuable chemicals and fuels focus on breaking it down into low molecular weight compounds, which are further converted into useful products. Mixture was always obtained for the transformation of lignin because of its complex structure. Dr. Huizhen Liu proposed a novel strategy for the transformation of lignin, where methoxy group in lignin was selectively transformed and acetic acid with high selectivity was prepared. She is able to perform this research with different types of lignin including kraft lignin and organosolv lignin. This work opens the way to produce pure chemicals using lignin as the feedstocks.
The CHEMRAWN VII Prize was first announced in August 2008 and since, has been awarded every two years at the IUPAC International Conference on Green Chemistry. The Prize is granted to a young investigator (less than 45 years of age) from an emerging region who is actively contributing to research in Green Chemistry. The 2020 CHEMRAWN VII Prize will be presented to Dr Makhubela and Dr Liu at the 9th IUPAC Conference on Green Chemistry that has been postponed to 2022 due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The IUPAC CHEMRAWN VII prize has previously been awarded to Noureddine Yassaa (Algeria) in 2010, Rashimi Sanghi (India) in 2012, Vania G. Zuin (Brazil) in 2014, Ali Maleki (Iran) in 2016, and Mirabbos Hojamberdiev (Uzbekistan) in 2018.