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Engineers in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have been selected to help lead a five-year, $20 million National Science Foundation engineering research center aimed at developing new mobile technologies for converting natural gas into transportation fuels near rural natural gas sites.

The ability to convert natural gas into fuels could help the United States secure its energy independence, lower the nation’s energy costs and potentially provide a lower carbon footprint to a future sustainable energy economy. The project’s leaders estimate that their technologies could also inject $20 billion per year into the U.S. economy through the creation of new businesses and the development of a next-generation shale workforce.

The new Center for Innovative and Strategic Alkane Resources (CISTAR) will develop innovative catalysts, separation processes and process systems that convert alkanes — hydrocarbons including methane, ethane and propane — into more valuable liquid fuels, including gasoline and diesel fuels. To better leverage the natural gas sector’s surplus in lighter hydrocarbon gases, CISTAR plans to build small, modular and mobile processing units for small well sites in rural areas.

Along with Joan Brennecke, the UT Austin team includes David Allen, Thomas Edgar, Benny Freeman and Mark Stadtherr of Texas ChE and Sheila Olmstead of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The researchers will focus on developing materials, technologies and processes for separating reactants and products, minimizing environmental impacts and testing integrated system analyses.

For the full story, Department to Co-Lead $20M NSF Center To Convert Natural Gas Into Transportation Fuels, please go to the department webpage.

Alon Y. Kirschner Receives the Elias Klein Travel Supplement from NAMS for ICOM 2017

Alon Y. Kirschner Receives the Elias Klein Travel Supplement from the North American Membrane Society (NAMS) for the 2017 International Congress on Membranes (ICOM).

The Elias Klein Founders’ Travel Supplement program supports students needing limited financial assistance and will provide up to $500 in reimbursement for reasonable expenses (e.g. travel cost, registration, workshops) for attending ICOM 2017 to present their research (oral or poster presentation). This award program is named in honor of Elias Klein, whose vision and spirit guided the founding of NAMS in 1985.

Alon Kirschner and Shichao He Named TAs of the Year (2016)

Alon Kirschner and Shichao He have been named the TAs of the Year for their work in ChE 317 Intro to Chemical Engineering Analysis and ChE 253M Measurement, Control and Data Analysis Lab, respectively.

Both Kirschner and He will each be awarded the Paige H. and J. Jeff Weidner Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Chemical Engineering worth $3,500.

In the evaluation of Kirschner’s performance, the students described him as encouraging, fair, caring and great at conveying information.

“Alon’s exemplary TA service in 317 was critical to getting the students off to a solid start in their chemical engineering careers,” Dr. Benny Freeman, ChE 317 course instructor, said. ”The students bonded with Alon and viewed him as a role model based on his personal enthusiasm, brilliant lecturing and patient mentoring.”

“I myself had a lot of trouble with this class, and having a bad TA did not make life easier,” Kirschner said. “That made me want to put in a lot of effort to make the material clear and getting this positive feedback makes that effort worthwhile.”

He’s students described her as an incredibly knowledgeable and helpful TA who made lab and the students’ learning experience enjoyable.

“As a TA, Shichao worked productively, professionally and patiently with the undergraduates she was teaching,” Dr. Keith Friedman, ChE 253M course instructor, said. “She sought feedback on her teaching and implemented it and was genuinely invested in student success.”

“I appreciate this program and Dr. Friedman offering me this TA position,” He said. “I enjoyed working with all of the students through this course and it is encouraging to me to learn that the students found my teaching effective and helpful.”

The department is pleased to recognize the level of effort given and performance above and beyond expectations by these two exceptional TAs.

Posted August 24, 2017: TAs of the Year

Freeman Elected Fellow in North American Membrane Society

The North American Membrane Society (NAMS) has elected Dr. Benny Freeman, Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering at the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, a Fellow based on his service to the organization and his highly significant professional accomplishments in the membrane field.

“Professor Freeman’s service to NAMS and other related societies is outstanding. Benny has provided extensive service to the profession through serving in high-level panels and committees, organizing conferences and symposia, serving as editor for journals, and serving in leadership roles of numerous organizations including NAMS,” said Dr. Dibaker Bhattacharyya, past president of NAMS. “He’s a tremendous asset to our profession.”

The North American Membrane Society is the only professional society in North America that promotes all aspects of membrane science and technology. This ranges from fundamental studies of membrane material science to process application and development. Dr. Freeman will be recognized at the 2017 International Congress on Membranes and Membrane Processes conference in San Francisco, July 29 through August 4.

Posted May 16, 2017

Benny Freeman, CSIRO’s 2017 Sir Jerry Price Lecture Presenter

Professor and Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Benny Freeman was recently announced as CSIRO’s 2017 Sir Jerry Price Lecture presenter.

CSIRO’s 2017 Sir Jerry Price Lecture.

The lecture series was established in 1990 in an effort to encourage the collaboration between industry, CSIRO and university scientists. Its namesake, Sir Jerry Price, was the former CEO of CSIRO and a leading mind in organic chemistry.

Professor Freeman’s presentation titled, “Science and Technology to Secure the Future for Water and Energy” will frame the water/energy nexus challenges and opportunities, and provide a glimpse of potential paths forward to supply the world with low energy, abundant access to water.

Professor Freeman was awarded the U.S. Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation in 2016. His is the first Fulbright distinguished chair sponsored by CSIRO.

The lecture will take place Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 at the Australian Synchrotron. A recorded broadcast will be available on the Chemical Engineering Department’s website and social media pages following the event.

Chemical Engineering Department
Chemical Engineering Department Facebook
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Posted January 27, 2017

Jovan Kamcev Wins 2016 AIChE Graduate Student Research Award

Jovan Kamcev has been awarded the 2016 AIChE Separations Division Graduate Student Research Award in Separations: Membrane-Based Separations, established to recognize outstanding graduate student research in this area. He is pictured here with Profesor Benny D. Freeman.

Selection criteria for the award include:
1) The paper must report on research, investigation or design, and must be part of the student’s work for a graduate degree.
2) The paper may be co-authored by others, but the student nominee must have been the primary author.
3) The paper is of quality acceptable for publication in journals such as the AIChE Journal and Chemical Engineering Science.
4) Papers are judged on technical content, quality of writing, and organization.
5) The person nominating a student must be a member of the AIChE.

Jovan Kamcev Wins Graduate Student Paper of 2016

Jovan Kamcev has been awarded the Graduate Student Paper of the Year Award and the Marion Johnson South Texas Section Society of Plastics Engineers Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Chemical Engineering worth $4,000, for his paper entitled “Partitioning of mobile ions between ion exchange polymers and aqueous salt solutions: Importance of counter-ion condensation” published in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics in January 2016.

Kamcev’s study addresses a longstanding problem in his field – the need for a theoretical framework to predict ion sorption and transport in charged membranes. Charged membranes play a key role in water purification and energy generation applications such as electrodialysis, fuel cells, batteries, etc. Using established ideas from the field of dilute polyelectrolytes, Kamcev and his team have developed a model to accurately predict ion partitioning between a charged membrane and an aqueous salt solution without adjustable parameters. This approach requires knowledge of basic membrane properties such as chemical structure, concentration of fixed charge groups, and water content.

Kamcev’s paper is the foundation for his research program, aimed at developing a molecular understanding of how altering the polymer structure (chemical or physical) affects water and ion transport properties in such materials. Once he and his team develop a better understanding of this issue, high performance membranes can be designed in a rational way. This could lead to major improvements in technologies aimed at addressing the most pressing challenge facing our society – obtaining sustainable supplies of energy and water for future generations.

“Winning this award means a great deal to me, considering the amazing and diverse research that goes on in our department,” Kamcev said. “It is truly an honor to be selected for this award. I want to express my deepest gratitude to my co-authors, as well as the rest of our laboratory, for their assistance with this study.”

This recognition is one of many in a series of successes for Kamcev. Recently, Kamcev was also awarded first place at the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Graduate Student Award Symposium, second place at the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Membranes: Materials & Processes, and the 2016 AIChE Separations Division Graduate Student Award.

Posted 8/29/2016,

Michelle Dose is Runner-Up in Graduate Student Seminar Series Top Presenters

The McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering announced the top presenters for the 2016 Graduate Student Seminar Series, as voted by attending first-year and third-year Ph.D. students.

Michelle Dose’s research, “polymer membranes for oelfin/paraffin separations” focuses on developing a fundamental understanding of the transport of small molecules through polymer based membranes with an eventual goal of using such materials to reduce the energy consumption of large scale gas phase separations.

Michelle Dose and Kelly Markham were also recognized for organizing these weekly seminars and Professor Hal Alper for overseeing the program.