Synthesis of Pd/Ru Bimetallic Nanoparticles by Escherichia coli and Potential as a Catalyst for Upgrading 5-Hydroxymethyl Furfural Into Liquid Fuel Precursors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Jaime Gomez-Bolivar
  • Dipanjan Banerjee
  • Marc Walker
  • Rachel A Hand
  • Mohamed L Merroun

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Granada, Granada, Spain.
  • School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham
  • Department of Chemistry, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
  • Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom.
  • Warwick University


Escherichia coli cells support the nucleation and growth of ruthenium and ruthenium-palladium nanoparticles (Bio-Ru and Bio-Pd/Ru NPs). We report a method for the synthesis of these monometallic and bimetallic NPs and their application in the catalytic upgrading of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (5-HMF) to 2,5 dimethylfuran (DMF). Examination using high resolution transmission electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDX) and high angle annular dark field (HAADF) showed Ru NPs located mainly at the cell surface using Ru(III) alone but small intracellular Ru-NPs (size ∼1-2 nm) were visible only in cells that had been pre-"seeded" with Pd(0) (5 wt%) and loaded with equimolar Ru. Pd(0) NPs were distributed between the cytoplasm and cell surface. Cells bearing 5% Pd/5% Ru showed some co-localization of Pd and Ru but chance associations were not ruled out. Cells loaded to 5 wt% Pd/20 wt% Ru showed evidence of core-shell structures (Ru core, Pd shell). Examination of this cell surface material using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) showed Pd(0) and Pd(II) and Ru(IV) and Ru(III), with confirmation by analysis of bulk material using X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) analyses. Both Bio-Ru NPs and Bio-Pd/Ru NPs were active in the conversion of 5-HMF into 2,5-DMF but commercial Ru on carbon catalyst outperformed 5 wt% bio-Ru by fourfold. While 5 wt% Pd/20 wt% Ru achieved 20% yield of DMF the performance of the 5 wt% Pd/5 wt% Ru bio-catalyst was higher and comparable to the commercial 5 wt% Ru/C catalyst in a test reaction using commercial 5-HMF (>50% selectivity). 5-HMF was prepared by thermochemical hydrolysis of starch and cellulose with solvent extraction of 5-HMF into methyltetrahydrofuran (MTHF). Here, with MTHF as the reaction solvent the commercial Ru/C catalyst had little activity (100% conversion, negligible selectivity to DMF) whereas the 5 wt% Pd/5 wt% Ru bio-bimetallic gave 100% conversion and 14% selectivity to DMF from material extracted from hydrolyzates. The results indicate a potential green method for realizing increased energy potential from biomass wastes as well as showing a bio-based pathway to manufacturing a scarcely described bimetallic material.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1276
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2019


  • 2,5-dimethyl furan synthesis, 5-hydroxymethyl furfural conversion, Pd/Ru core-shells, cellulose conversion, ruthenium bionanoparticles