From energy-harvesting textiles to better batteries and solar cells, the Chemical Engineering Department is doing the research that will enable increased use of renewable energy sources. For example, we are working on new thermochemical and biochemical pathways to renewable liquid biofuels and also examining how they perform in an engine. We are making new materials for hydrogen storage and for electrocatalysis. We are also doing fundamental and applied research related to electrochemical systems for energy storage and energy conversion.
Catalysis is at the heart of fuel and chemicals production, and for more than a decade we have pursued catalyst design from nano-scale understanding of reaction mechanisms and their connection to catalyst sites. The current efforts of Professor Mark Barteau and his research group are focused on design of novel materials for selective formation of oxygen-containing products from both biomass-derived feedstocks as well as from hydrocarbons, and new approaches to the utilization of nano-catalysts in unconventional reaction environments.
Professor Jinsang Kim and his research group develop design principles for self-organizing polymers and approaches for engineering the band gap of semiconducting polymers. Their findings could lead to cheaper, greener plastic solar cells.
Professor Andrej Lenert and his team focus on solar thermal systems that utilize the full spectrum of sunlight and are compatible with inexpensive long term storage
Xiaoxia (Nina) Lin
Professor Nina Lin and her research group investigate communities of microbes and engineers symbiotic relationships among them to turn biomass into biofuel.
Professor Suljo Linic and his research group's studies in catalysis have implications fuel cells, biofuels, batteries and for the greener and more energy-efficient generation of industrial chemicals.
Professor Mayes and her team are uncovering how to efficiently decompose non-food biomass into simple sugars and platform chemicals that can be converted into renewable chemicals and fuels.
Professor Johannes Schwank and his research group study catalytic materials, solvents,and processes for converting biomass into useful fuels and chemicals. The Group also participates in an integrated assessment of fracking for natural gas recovery, and works on novel concepts for waste heat recovery.
Professor Timothy Scott and his group are developing ways to use free radicals to make new kinds of polymers, which may be useful for energy capture and storage.
Professor Max Shtein and his research group explore organic and inorganic materials that could convert both high- and low-energy photons to electricity. The team also designs materials that can mimic the energy conversion pathways of high efficiency inorganic solar cell materials, such as silicon. In addition, group members are developing woven-fiber textiles capable of harvesting energy.
Professor Levi Thompson and his research group design catalysts for producing hydrogen, such as water splitting and processing hydrocarbon fuels. The group also studies energy storage, including flow batteries, lithium batteries and supercapacitors.
Professor Angela Violi and her lab study the formation and fate of nanoparticles in the environment through computer simulations. Her team's research includes the combustion of biofuels.
Lignocellulosic biofuels represent a promising alternative to fossil fuels for transportation. Professor Fei Wen and her group employ engineering strategies ranging from biocatalysis to synthetic biology to achieve one-step microbial conversion of biomass to ethanol.
Professor Ralph Yang and his research group study carbon nanotubes and graphite nanofibers for hydrogen storage.
Corn stalks into better biofuel
Professor Nina Lin and her team have developed a community of fungus and genetically modified E. coli that can break down plant wastes such as corn stalks and leaves and turn the resulting sugars into the biofuel isobutanol.