Abstract: In chemical synthesis, making and breaking chemical bonds often requires traversing large energy differences. Traditionally, industrial chemical processes have relied on pressure and temperature as driving forces, and the energy generally comes from fossil fuels. However, with the advent of distributed and accessible renewable electricity, it is attractive to consider driving these chemical processes with renewable electricity instead. In this talk, I will first look at the broad question of how to compare electrochemical routes with traditional thermochemical routes for chemical transformations, comparing voltage, temperature, and pressure as thermodynamic driving forces. Second, I will discuss how electrochemistry can enable access to renewable carbon feedstocks, i.e., carbon dioxide. Specifically, I will discuss how voltage can efficiently drive the separation of carbon dioxide from ocean water for capture and utilization. Third, I will discuss electrochemical ammonia activation. Ammonia has one of the largest global production rates by volume and is a nexus synthesis molecule, either directly or indirectly providing nitrogen for a range of molecules such as polymers and pharmaceuticals. I will discuss how an applied potential can help form carbon-nitrogen bonds, an electrochemical analogue to traditional reductive amination. I will also briefly talk about an energy storage paradigm that leverages ammonium formate, a combination of ammonia and formic acid, to store renewable electricity. Overall, I will start with the broad question of why and when to use voltage in the chemical industry, and then I will focus on how electrochemistry can aid processes such as capturing carbon dioxide and ammonia utilization.
Bio: Zachary Schiffer is currently a Resnick Sustainability Postdoctoral Scholar with Prof. Harry Atwater at Caltech, where his research focuses on electrochemical carbon capture from seawater and photocatalytic nitrogen reduction. He completed his Ph.D. in Fall 2021 with Prof. Karthish Manthiram at the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering. His graduate thesis work focused broadly on exploring electrification and decarbonization routes for industrial chemical processes, with a focus on the development of electrochemical routes for ambient-condition nitrogen cycle reactions. In general, his research combines fundamental thermodynamics, kinetic analysis techniques, computational chemistry, and materials synthesis to explore electrochemical systems. Before his Ph.D., he completed a B.S.E. in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University, performing his senior thesis work on the mechanics of Li-ion batteries with Prof. Craig Arnold.
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Tony Mikos, Rice University
Host: Prof. Molly Shoichet
Advances in biology, materials science, chemical engineering, computer science, and other fields have allowed for the development of tissue engineering, an interdisciplinary convergence science. Our laboratory has focused on the development and characterization of biomaterials-based strategies for the regeneration of human tissues with the goal of improving healthcare outcomes. In a collaborative effort with physicians, surgeons, and other scientists, we have produced new material compositions and three-dimensional scaffolds, and investigated combinations of biomaterials with cell populations and bioactive agents for their ability to induce tissue formation and regeneration. We have examined the effects of material characteristics, such as mechanical properties, topographical features, and functional groups, on cell behavior and tissue guidance, and leveraged biomaterials as drug delivery vehicles to release growth factors and other signals with spatial and temporal specificity. This presentation will review recent examples of injectable and 3D-printable biomaterials-based approaches for regenerative medicine applications and highlight emerging areas of growth, such as the use of tissue engineering to model tumor microenvironments for validation of cancer therapeutic discovery.
Antonios G. Mikos is the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University. His research focuses on the synthesis, processing, and evaluation of new biomaterials for use as scaffolds for tissue engineering, as carriers for controlled drug delivery, as non-viral vectors for gene therapy, and as platforms for disease modeling. His work has led to the development of novel orthopaedic, dental, cardiovascular, neurologic, and ophthalmologic biomaterials. He is the author of over 680 publications and the inventor of 32 patents. Mikos is a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the Academia Europaea, and the Academy of Athens. He has been recognized by various awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society-Americas, the Founders Award of the Society For Biomaterials, the Founders Award of the Controlled Release Society, the Acta Biomaterialia Gold Medal, and the Robert A. Pritzker Distinguished Lecturer Award of the Biomedical Engineering Society. He is a founding editor and editor-in-chief of the journal Tissue Engineering.
PhD Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract: Global decarbonization of the energy sector necessitates development of storage technologies to mediate the inherent intermittency of renewable resources. Electrochemical systems are well-positioned to support this transition with redox flow batteries (RFBs) emerging as a promising grid-scale platform, as their unique architecture offers decoupled energy / power scaling, simplified manufacturing, and long service life. Despite these favorable characteristics, current embodiments remain prohibitively expensive for broad adoption, motivating the development of new electrolyte formulations (e.g., redox molecules, supporting salts, solvents) and reactor materials (e.g., electrodes, membranes) to meet performance and cost targets for emerging applications. While many next-generation materials offer performance improvements, they must carefully balance complex tradeoffs between power / energy density, cycling stability, energy efficiency, and capital costs. This multifaceted parameter space frustrates the articulation of unambiguous design criteria, as the relationships between constituent material properties and cell performance metrics are not yet well-understood. To this end, my research establishes rational design strategies for RFBs to enable robust, cost-competitive, and durable grid-scale energy storage.
In this talk, I will first introduce a modeling framework for describing cell cycling behavior in RFBs, building on thermodynamic, kinetic, and transport descriptions for electrochemical processes. Using this generalized set of constitutive equations, I will discuss analytical solutions for the coupled mass balances, enabling facile simulation of charge / discharge behavior and device performance metrics. I will then describe the development of new experimental methodologies that facilitate characterization of constituent materials under conditions that more closely resemble those observed in practical embodiments. Broadly, the methods developed in this work have the potential to advance foundational understanding in RFB design and operation, leading to more rigorous selection criteria for candidate materials.
Bio: Bertrand is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and Martin Fellow for Sustainability pursuing his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at MIT. His research in the Brushett Group centers on the design of redox flow batteries, applying chemical and electrochemical engineering principles to better understand design tradeoffs for constituent materials. He is also the Editor-in-Chief for the MIT Science Policy Review and a fellow in the ChemE Communication Lab. Prior to graduate school, Bertrand received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Ohio University. He is passionate about educating the next generation of chemical engineers and developing electrochemical technologies to address modern sustainability challenges.
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Abstract: Accelerating the discovery of new molecules and materials, as well as green and sustainable ways to synthesize and manufacture them, will have a profound impact on the global challenges in energy, sustainability, and healthcare. The current human-dependent paradigm of experimental research in chemical and materials sciences fails to identify technological solutions for worldwide challenges in a short timeframe. This limitation necessitates the development and implementation of new strategies to accelerate the pace of discovery. Recent advances in reaction miniaturization, automated experimentation, and data science provide an exciting opportunity to reshape the discovery and manufacturing of new molecules and materials related to energy transition and sustainability. In this talk, I will present a ‘self-driving fluidic lab (SDFL)’ for autonomous discovery and manufacturing of emerging advanced functional materials and molecules, with multi-step chemistries, through integration of flow chemistry, online characterization, and machine learning (ML). I will discuss how modularization of different chemical synthesis and processing stages in tandem with a constantly evolving ML modeling and decision-making under uncertainty can enable a resource-efficient navigation through high dimensional experimental design spaces (>1020 possible experimental conditions). Example applications of SDFL for the autonomous synthesis of clean energy nanomaterials will be presented to illustrate the potential of autonomous robotic experimentation in reducing synthetic route discovery timeframe from >10 years to a few months. Finally, I will present the unique reconfigurability aspect of flow chemistry to close the scale gap in chemical and materials research through facile switching from the reaction exploration/exploitation to smart manufacturing mode.
Bio: Milad Abolhasani is an Associate Professor and a University Faculty Scholar in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 2014. Prior to joining NC State University, he was an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT (2014-2016). At NC State University, Dr. Abolhasani leads a diverse research group that studies self-driving labs tailored toward accelerated development and manufacturing of advanced functional materials and molecules using fluidic micro-processors. Dr. Abolhasani has received numerous awards and fellowships, including NSF CAREER Award, AIChE 35 Under 35, Dreyfus Award for Machine Learning in the Chemical Sciences & Engineering, AIChE NSEF Young Investigator Award, I &EC Research 2021 Class of Influential Researchers, AIChE Futures Scholar, The John C. Chen Young Professional Leadership Scholarship (AIChE), ACS-PRF Doctoral New Investigator Award, and Emerging Investigator recognition from Lab on a Chip, Reaction Chemistry & Engineering, and Journal of Flow Chemistry.
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Jennifer Wilcox, US Department of Energy
Host: Prof. Jay Werber
President Biden has laid out a bold and ambitious goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2050. The pathway to that target includes cutting total greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and eliminating them entirely from the Nation’s electricity sector by 2035. Investment in technology research, design, development, and deployment (RDD&D) will be required to achieve the president’s objectives, including investments in both carbon capture at point sources in addition to carbon dioxide removal approaches that target the accumulated pool of carbon in the atmosphere. Both will be required to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in time and they will require increased deployment in order to move down the cost curve. These efforts combined with effective policy will make these approaches economically viable.
These approaches are critical and they must be deployed in parallel. Deployment of these technologies at the scale required will necessitate the use of resources including land, water, and in some cases, low-carbon energy, while ensuring the secure and reliable storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) on a timescale that impacts climate. Therefore, CCS and CDR deployment must be implemented strategically in terms of regional goals and requirements.
The Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management will play an important role in the transition to net-zero carbon emissions by reducing the environmental impacts of fossil energy production and use – and helping decarbonize other hard-to abate sectors – through investments in technology solutions including CCS, direct air capture, and the deployment of carbon capture technologies to produce low-carbon products and fuel, including hydrogen.
Professor Jennifer Wilcox, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (Acting Assistant Secretary) in the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management at DOE and is on leave as the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering and Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, as a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, she led WRI’s Carbon Removal Program.
Having grown up in rural Maine, Dr. Wilcox has a profound respect and appreciation of nature. That appreciation permeates her work; she focuses on minimizing climate and environmental impacts of our dependence on fossil fuels.
Dr. Wilcox holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering and an M.A. in Chemistry from the University of Arizona and B.A. in Mathematics from Wellesley College. Dr. Wilcox’s research takes aim at the nexus of energy and the environment, developing both mitigation and adaptation strategies to minimize negative climate impacts associated with society’s dependence on fossil fuels. She has served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society to assess carbon capture methods and impacts on climate. She is the author of the first textbook on carbon capture, Carbon Capture, published in March 2012. She co-edited the CDR Primer on carbon dioxide removal in 2021.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Abstract: Amongst the greatest challenges faced by modern society are the transition to sustainable technologies and the always-pressing need to develop healthcare solutions. Many of the proposed innovations to address these challenges require the ability to design materials with unprecedented structural and compositional control. Automation is emerging as a solution to provide controlled synthesis, processing, and assembly of polymer materials; combined with data science, these two tools are well-poised to accelerate the discovery and development of advanced materials. This talk will first discuss engineering strategies towards controlling polymer molecular weight, composition, and topology with a digital level of precision. Precision synthesis is achieved with an automated flow reactor and is demonstrated by the complete control over polymer molecular weight distribution shape, as well as the synthesis of shape-defined bottlebrush polymers. This work pushes the limits of molecular design and assembly, with applications as a nanostructured material for electronics, structural color, filtration, water purification, and energy storage. The second half of the talk will focus on the development of high throughput automation for polymer synthesis and the role of data science for polymer material discovery.
Bio: Dr. Dylan Walsh is an accomplished postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. He works in the labs of Profs. Klavs Jensen and Brad Olsen, where he is currently focused on developing intelligent automated reactors for polymer synthesis. In addition, he is leading the development of CRIPT (Community Resource for Innovation in Polymer Technology), an open-source digital polymer ecosystem that serves as a community driven polymer database with cutting-edge cheminformatic tools. Prior to joining MIT, Dr. Walsh earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, under the supervision of Prof. Damien Guironnet. He was a DuPont Science and Engineering Fellow and a Dow Chemical Company Graduate Fellow during his graduate studies, where he developed engineering methods for precision synthesis and assembly of polymer materials. He also holds two degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where his undergraduate research focused on the development of novel catalytic organometallic reactions.
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Elizabeth Edwards, University of Toronto
Host: Prof. Ramin Farnood
These are very exciting times in fundamental and applied environmental microbiology owing to significant advances in analytical tools and techniques to interrogate complex biological systems. These tools include affordable large-scale sequencing, quantitative DNA and RNA extraction and amplification tools, powerful microscopy, and proteomic analyses applicable to complex mixtures and small sample sizes. These techniques are enabling novel approaches and improved modelling to uncover fundamental metabolism, regulation, genetics, and interspecies metabolite transfer in complex microbial ecosystems. Specific applications related to my own research include biomethane production, wastewater treatment and surveillance, and soil and groundwater bioremediation. These processes rely on complex microbial communities that have defied traditional reductionist microbiological approaches. In this talk, I will discuss how combinations of modern genome-enabled tools have been used to monitor microbial communities and to decipher beneficial interactions in complex microbial consortia, whose activity is greater than the sum of their individual parts.
Dr. Elizabeth Edwards holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from McGill University, Montreal, and a PhD degree (1993) in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University. She is internationally known for her work on anaerobic bioremediation, the application of molecular biology and metagenomics to uncover novel microbial processes, and the transition of laboratory research into commercial practice to develop bioremediation and bioaugmentation strategies for groundwater pollutants. Dr. Edwards and her team were recognized with the 2009 NSERC Synergy Award for her highly successful partnership with Geosyntec, an international environmental consulting firm with whom she developed a microbial consortium called KB-1®. This commercially successful bioproduct marketed by SiREM labs in Guelph, ON, biodegrades two of the world’s most common and persistent groundwater pollutants, PCE (a common dry-cleaning agent) and TCE (a degreasing solvent), more quickly and at a lower cost than conventional methods. It has been used at over 700 sites around the world.
She is also the founding director of BioZone, a Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering Research at the University of Toronto and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Anaerobic Biotechnology. In 2016, she was awarded the Canada Council of the Arts Killam Prize in recognition of her outstanding career achievements and was appointed an Officer in the Order of Canada (Canada’s highest civilian honour) by the Canadian Governor General in 2020.
Josephine Hill, University of Calgary
Host: Prof. Cathy Chin
“What if waste wasn’t?” is a question that requires careful consideration. Although it appears attractive to convert waste into valuable products, the technical and economic feasibility of any conversion process must be carefully analyzed. Gasification is a process in which solids and liquids are converted to gases but unlike combustion, in which the products are carbon dioxide and water, the products are a mixture of mainly hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This mixture can be used to run an engine to produce power or chemically converted to make other fuels in a Fischer-Tropsch synthesis process. Contaminants in the waste may impact the gasification process by deactivating catalysts, which are substances that increase the rates of reaction, and/or forming species that damage the process equipment (e.g., through corrosion). The additional units required to remove the contaminants, either up- or downstream may make the process economically unfavourable, as may the cost to transport the feed and products. This presentation will discuss the various waste streams available in Canada, the potential technical challenges of using these streams, and the techno-economic analysis of a few scenarios.
Dr. Josephine Hill is a Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering of the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. She received her education and training at the University of Waterloo (BASc and MASc) and the University of Wisconsin–Madison (PhD) and worked for two years at Surface Science Western at the University of Western Ontario between her graduate degrees. Dr. Hill’s research is in the area of catalysis with applications to partial upgrading, gasification, and the conversion of solid waste materials, such as petroleum coke and biomass, into catalysts supports and activated carbon. She is currently the President of the Canadian Catalysis Foundation, the Vice-chair of the Chemical Institute of Canada, and an Editor of Applied Catalysis A: General. Her research and mentoring excellence have been recognized with many awards including the APEGA Research Excellence Summit Award, a Killam Annual Professorship, Engineers Canada Award for the Support of Women in the Engineering Profession, a Canada Research Chair, and the Canadian Catalysis Lectureship Award. She is a Fellow of The Engineering Institute of Canada, Chemical Institute of Canada, Canadian Academy of Engineering, and Engineers Canada.
Andreas Lendlein, University of Potsdam
Host: Prof. Frank Gu
Functionalization of materials aims at predetermining their behavior and fate in application relevant system environments. Various chemistry-based approaches are established such as covalent coupling of bioactive molecules to foster their interaction with cells or incorporation of easily cleavable bonds to gain degradability. The shape-memory effect is an example for a function, which can be implemented in polymers by physical manipulation. As this memory can be recalled, deleted or changed, this process is named programming. Morphologies of porous materials and geometrical arrangements in multimaterial systems can serve as design criteria for structural functions or dynamic behaviors as required for actuators. The targeted design of multifunctional polymeric materials will be illustrated for medical applications and sustainable products. A perspective on the potential of digital methods to predict the functional behavior of polymers, to support the design of devices and enable their fabrication will be given.
Dr. Andreas Lendlein received his doctoral degree in Material Science from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland. His research interests comprise material functions by design and implementation of multifunctionality in polymer-based materials for bioinstructive implants, controlled drug release systems, healthcare technologies and soft robotics. Dr. Lendlein published 747 papers, is an inventor on 338 patents / patent applications, and received 23 awards for scientific and entrepreneurial achievements including 2022 MRS Communications Lecture Award. He is elected fellow of Materials Research Society (2021), American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2021) & Controlled Release Society (2020), founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Multifunctional Materials and serves on the Executive Advisory Board of Wiley-VCH´s Macromolecular Journals.
Marianthi Ierapetritou, University of Delaware
Host: Prof. Krishna Mahadevan
The growing concerns over global warming and environmental issues motivate the research on replacing oil-based feedstocks with biomass raw material for chemical and fuel production. This however comes with a number of challenges as the new technologies have to compete with the fossil based mature processes to ensure economic viability and market competitiveness. Moreover, life cycle analysis is not always in favor of the “green” solutions depending on the pathway explored.
Optimization of the biomass feed splitting among alternative pathways considering their economic and environmental impacts can be thus explored to discover the best available routes and determine the optimal mix of the value-added products. Hence, the integrated biorefinery is proposed to combine different conversion technologies and fully utilize all biomass components using the superstructure optimization framework. In addition to selecting the most economical and sustainable feedstock-technology-product combinations, the integrated biorefinery strategy can also include process flexibility to adjust its production in the volatile chemical market.
Acknowledging the increasing market competition, environmental concerns, and uncertainty in price and transportation times, there is a growing interest in achieving modularization, design standardization, and process intensification for biomass processing. The integration of modular designs within the existing supply chain could be challenging. Supply chain networks have become more prominent, complex, and difficult to manage, especially considering the multitude of risks and uncertainty that may manifest. In this talk, I will also touch upon the work in our group towards developing a supply chain model that aids decision-making addressing the complexities of a modular infrastructure and provide some ideas to deal with disruptions by considering both proactive and reactive strategies.
Marianthi Ierapetritou is the Bob and Jane Gore Centennial Chair Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of Delaware. Prior to that she has been a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at Rutgers University. During the last year at Rutgers University she led the efforts of the university advancing the careers in STEM for women at Rutgers as an Associate Vice President of the University.
Dr. Ierapetritou’s research focuses on the following areas: 1) process operations; (2) design and synthesis of flexible production systems with emphasis on pharmaceutical manufacturing; 3) energy and sustainability process modeling and operations; and 4) modeling of biopharmaceutical production. Her research is supported by several federal (FDA, NIH, NSF, ONR, NASA, DOE) and industrial (BMS, J&J, GSK, PSE, Bosch, Eli Lilly) grants.
Among her accomplishments are the appointment as the Gore Centennial Professor in 2019, the promotion to distinguished professor at Rutgers University in 2017, the 2016 Computing and Systems Technology (CAST) division Award in Computing in Chemical Engineering which is the highest distinction in the Systems area of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Award of Division of Particulate Preparations and Design (PPD) of The Society of Powder Technology, Japan; the Outstanding Faculty Award at Rutgers; the Rutgers Board of Trustees Research Award for Scholarly Excellence; and the prestigious NSF CAREER award. She has served as a Consultant to the FDA under the Advisory Committee for Pharmaceutical Science and Clinical Pharmacology, elected as a fellow of AICHE and as a Director in the board of AIChE. She has more than 290 publications and has been an invited speaker to numerous national and international conferences.
Dr. Ierapetritou obtained her BS from The National Technical University in Athens, Greece, her PhD from Imperial College (London, UK) in 1995 and subsequently completed her post-doctoral research at Princeton University (Princeton, NJ).