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Mahdi Abu-Omar

Professor Mahdi  Abu-OmarR. B. Wetherill Professor of Chemistry—Inorganic Chemistry
Phone: 765-494-5302
Office: BRWN 5170A

For Professor Abu-Omar's individual Home Page click here.

My research group and I are interested in understanding the reaction chemistry of transition element compounds with particular emphasis on their role in catalysis. Our investigations are aimed at building mechanistic understanding that can advance our knowledge of catalysts and improve their design. We determine reaction mechanisms by studying chemical kinetics, characterizing intermediates, employing state-of-the art spectroscopy under operando conditions, and developing structure-function correlations.

One of my laboratory’s hallmarks is that we combine mechanistic/physical studies and synthetic chemistry. We are currently engaged in three projects that span fundamental atom and electron transfer reactions in porphyrin/heme systems, catalytic conversion of biomass, and kinetics of single-site olefin polymerization catalysts. Our research is funded by external grants from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Highlighted below are our most recent accomplishments.

Major Research Accomplishments of the Abu-Omar Group:

  • Discovered rhenium catalyzed DeOxyDeHydration reaction (DODH) and applied its utility to conversion of biomass-derived molecules such as glycerol and sugar alcohols to small and useful organics (SUO).
  • Developed synergistic and tandem catalysis for conversion of lignin to aromatic compounds using synergistic effects between Pd nanoparticles and divalent zinc Lewis acid.
  • Established the chemical mechanism for the biological detoxification of chlorite to innocuous chloride and dioxygen with the heme enzyme chlorite dismutase.
  • Demonstrated the use of manganese and ruthenium water-soluble porphyrin complexes as catalysts for generation of chlorine dioxide from chlorite under ambient temperature and neutral pH.
  • Established the utility of molecular weight distribution (MWD) as a tool for studying and defining the kinetics of single-site olefin polymerization catalysts.


B.S., summa cum laude, 1992, Hampden-Sydney College; Ph.D., 1996, Iowa State University of Science and Technology; Postdoctoral Scholar, 1996-1997, California Institute of Technology.


  • Crano Memorial Lecturer, University of Akron, 2013
  • Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2012
  • JPP Young Investigator Award, Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines, 2010
  • Purdue University Faculty Scholar, 2008-2013
  • Senior Fulbright Fellow, U.S.-Israel Education Foundation, 2008
  • Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER), NSF, 1999-03
  • Beckman Young Investigator Award, 1999-02

Selected Publications

  • Trenton Parsell, Benjamin Owen, Ian Klein, Tiffany Jarrell, Christopher Marcum, Laura Haupert, Lucas Amundson, Hilkka Kenttamaa, Fabio Ribeiro, Jeffrey T. Miller, and Mahdi M. Abu-Omar, “Cleavage and Hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of C-O Bonds Relevant to Lignin Conversion Using Pd/Zn Synergistic Catalysis”. Chem. Sci. 2013 , 4, 806-813.
  • Jeffrey M. Switzer, Nicholas E. Travia, D. Keith Steelman, Grigori A. Medvedev, Kendall T. Thomson, W. Nicholas Delgass, Mahdi M. Abu-Omar, and James M. Caruthers, “Kinetic Modeling of 1-Hexene Polymerization Catalyzed by Zr(tBu-ONNMe2O)Bn2/B(C6F5)3”. Macromolecules 2012 , 45, 4978-4988.
  • Jing Yi, Shuo Liu, and Mahdi M. Abu-Omar, “Rhenium-Catalyzed Transfer Hydrogenation and Deoxygenation of Biomass-Derived Polyols to Small and Useful Organics”. ChemSusChem 2012 , 5, 1401-1404.
More Publications

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