Researchers in the Department of Chemical Engineering awarded COE seed grant to initiate industrial catalyst studies
Michael Janik, professor of chemical engineering and John J. and Jean M. Brennan Clean Energy Early Career Professor in the College Engineering, and Robert Rioux, associate professor of chemical engineering, have been awarded a Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grant from the Penn State College of Engineering to develop catalysts with the ability to hydrogenate selectively. The work will focus specifically on the hydrogenation of linear alkenes and aromatics for industrial applications.
The duo’s research proposal, “Selective Hydrogenation/Dehydrogenation Catalysis,” was selected by the college as one of six proposals to receive funding. A total of 34 submissions were considered.
Janik and Rioux were awarded $20,000 to fund initial computational and experimental trials to develop a fundamental understanding of selective hydrogenation that can be used to transcend a number of industry needs.
Working collaboratively with the pair are chemical engineering graduate students, Haoran He and Anish Dasgupta, and Randall Meyer, a corporate researcher at ExxonMobil. Meyer’s guidance and expertise has allowed the researchers to identify and focus on key challenges in the industry with an emphasis on unmet needs.
“Developing a value-added catalyst design will provide opportunities to create more energy-dense chemicals,” said Janik. “It will also allow for easier separation and purification inside chemical streams. Our hope is that we will one day be able to successfully teach individuals in the field how to selectively hydrogenate molecules for the application of many chemical processes.”
During the next year, the team plans to build a base understanding of what makes a successful selective catalyst, and predict how to better their results through experimentation.
They are currently examining the outcome of multiple molecules that could lend to a variety of applications.
The group plans to use the seed grant as a means to gather initial results, and will present the project to ExxonMobil later this year for potential long-term funding.