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Department News

Using one of the largest supercomputers in the world, a team of researchers, including Professor Ilja Siepmann (Department of Chemistry), Professor Michael Tsapatsis, graduate students Peng Bai and Mi Young Jeon, and postdoctoral researcher Limin Ren, has identified potential materials that could improve the production of ethanol and petroleum products. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost savings in these industries.

Petrochemical and biofuel refineries use materials called zeolites that act as molecular sieves to sort, filter, and trap chemical compounds, as well as catalyze chemical reactions necessary to produce and upgrade fuel and chemical feedstock from petroleum-based and renewable resources. Unfortunately, synthesizing novel zeolites in the lab is a long, complicated process that can take many months each. Instead, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Rice University developed a complex computational screening process that can look at thousands of zeolites in the virtual world and identify their performance for specific applications. This reduces the need for trial and error experimentation in the lab.

The University of Minnesota has two patents pending on the research and hopes to license these technologies. The study was published in the research journal Nature Communications.


Robert Birgeneau, the Arnold and Barbara Silverman Distinguished Professor of Physics, Materials Science and Engineering, and Public Policy, and Chancellor Emeritus, from the University of California-Berkeley was the featured guest speaker for the 3rd annual Amundson Lecture on Thursday, January 22, 2015. Professor Birgeneau's seminar, "Superconductors Old and New," provided an overview of the field of materials physics and insights into new discoveries in superconductivity.

Birgeneau (center) is shown with CEMS faculty members after his lecture. The annual Amundson Lecture features a guest speaker that embodies the tenets of Professor Neal R. Amundson in collaborative research and innovation in the fields of chemical engineering and materials science. Amundson was a true visionary and leader in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, so it is only fitting to honor him with this named lecture series.

Assistant Professor Kechun Zhang is among eight recipients of the 2015-2017 McKnight Land-Grant Professorship. This University-wide program seeks to advance the careers of the most promising junior faculty members who have potential to make significant contributions to their departments and scholarly fields. Recipients were chosen based on merit, professional promise, quality of publication record, and originality and innovation in research achievements. Zhang is engineering a new way of metabolizing natural microorganisms into industrial yeast for efficient fermentation of value-added chemicals from lignocellulosic feedstocks such as corn stove, sugar beet pulp and citrus peel in order to enhance the viability of sustainable biomanufacturing.

Associate Professor Paul J. Dauenhauer is part of a team of researchers at the University of Delaware's Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI) that recently invented the Quantitative Carbon Detector (QCD), a new device that identifies and quantifies chemical compounds in complex mixtures such as fuels, oils, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food. This new instrument will have a significant impact on the amount of time required for chemical analysis.

"The QCD is really the holy grail of chemical analysis," says Dauenhauer, co-director of CCEI. "Utilizing this new technology allows us to focus our effort on catalytic science rather than tedious and expensive chemical calibrations." The research was published in the January issue of the journal Lab on a Chip, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry.


The new Gore Annex, a 40,000-square-foot expansion to Amundson Hall, was made possible through generous donations from Bob (Ph.D. ChemE '63) and Jane Gore and The Dow Chemical Company. In addition, Valspar Corporation funded a new 3,000-square-foot materials science and engineering laboratory located in the Gore Annex. Watch the video to learn more about how the Gore Annex will create a legacy of success in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Professor C. Daniel Frisbie has been appointed as Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CEMS) effective July 1, 2014. Regents Professor Frank S. Bates previously served in that role for 15 years. Frisbie, a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, has been a faculty member in CEMS since 1994 and served as a Director of Graduate Studies for Materials Science and Engineering from 2004 to 2013. Congratulations Dan!


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