Dauenhauer wins inaugural Rutherford Aris Award

Jan. 28, 2016 - Associate Professor Paul Dauenhauer has won the inaugural Rutherford Aris Young Investigator Award for Excellence in Chemical Reaction Engineering by the International Symposium on Chemical Reaction Engineering (ISCRE). This prestigious award recognizes outstanding contributions in experimental and/or theoretical reaction engineering research of investigators in the early stages of their careers. In the past decade, Dauenhauer has made transformational contributions to chemical reaction engineering research in the areas of biomass catalysis for renewable chemicals and solid fuel reaction engineering. His research activities have led to major breakthroughs published in the premiere scientific journals (Science, JACS, and Energy & Environmental Science). His independent research has been supported by prestigious young investigator awards (e.g., NSF CAREER and DOE Early Career Awards) and punctuated with the development of breakthrough research techniques, such as Thin-Film Pyrolysis, for probing the mechanisms underlying the conversion of biomass.

Dauenhauer’s research activities in the field of renewable chemicals have revealed an entirely new method for sustainable production of key chemicals for the polymer industry. His group has developed techniques for converting biomass-derived sugars by Diels-Alder cycloaddition into all of the major six-carbon aromatic chemicals, including p-xylene, toluene, phenol, and ethylbenzene. In key research publications, Dauenhauer and his co-workers describe the fundamental catalytic chemistry which can enable a biorefinery to produce a full array of chemical products. This discovery enables the renewable chemicals industry to shift its focus from functional replacements (i.e. new chemicals from biomass) to direct replacements (i.e. molecules from biomass that are identical to those being derived from petroleum). His work is currently one of the focal areas of a DOE Energy Frontiers Research Center, the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation.

Rutherford Aris (1929-2005) was a Regents Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering and Classics at the University of Minnesota. Aris had an enormous impact on the field of chemical engineering through his publications (13 books and more than 300 research articles), teaching and advising (he received prestigious teaching awards and mentored more than 65 master’s and Ph.D. students), and his influence on the directions of the profession. Among Aris’ most important technical contributions are his detailed explanations for sudden temperature runaways and oscillating behavior of processes involving chemical reactions. His work in this area led to better design and control of potentially explosive chemical processes and safer industrial operations. From the beginning of his career, he led the way in developing new mathematical techniques for optimizing and controlling chemical manufacturing processes and teaching these new methods to engineering students and industrial practitioners. His work on chemical kinetics and chemical reactor design provided a deeper understanding of observed phenomena and allowed much improved design of chemical processes. Today we have safer, more cost-effective, and more energy-efficient industrial manufacturing because of Aris’ discoveries, teaching, and influence on his field.

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