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To Biofuel or Not To Biofuel; Is That the Question?

When Jun 02, 2016
from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Where Lecture Theatre 1, Department of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, Pembroke Street
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It is with great pleasure, we invite you to the talk entitled "To Biofuel or Not To Biofuel; Is That the Question?", by Professor Phillip R. Westmoreland from North Carolina State University.

Title: "To Biofuel or Not To Biofuel; Is That the Question?"

Abstract: Chemical engineering is entering a new Golden Age of practice, thought, and impact, accompanied by new opportunities and challenges. Some of the reasons are a new abundance of hydrocarbons; the evolution of biology into a molecular science; the ubiquity of powerful computational tools; the trend in manufacturing to be more process-oriented; and the chemical + systems approach that is part of ChE education from its first stages.
Production of bio-oils illustrates both the opportunities and challenges faced by society and the profession of chemical engineering. Technically, this advance is a challenge because of the dispersed resource, its water content, and the acid, tarry content of the major thermal production method, fast pyrolysis. Chemical mechanisms for fast pyrolysis have been elusive until recently. Our experiments and quantum-chemical modeling have revealed the elementary pericyclic reactions that dominate cellulose pyrolysis in the absence of ions, promising the development of fundamental reaction-engineering models.
Its larger context will also be discussed because burning any carbon-based fuel generates CO2, and shifting the the global carbon balance away from CO2 seems crucial. Biofuels are also in competition with suddenly and remarkably cheap oil. All of this activity points to engineering and science as being pivotal disciplines for the technical, economic, and societal decisions of the day.

Speaker bio: Phil Westmoreland is a professor at North Carolina State University, Raleigh NC, in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, conducting research in chemical kinetics and reaction engineering. During November 2015 until July 2016, he is Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College. He is a past President of AIChE.
His degrees are in chemical engineering from N.C. State (BS ’73), LSU (MS ’74), and MIT (PhD ’86). He was a Research Engineer in the coal-conversion program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1974-79, was on the faculty of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1986-2009, and served at the National Science Foundation in 2006-2009. He is also Honorary Professor at Nanjing University of Technology and served as Professeur invité at the Université de Lorraine.
Professor Westmoreland’s research focuses on reaction kinetics and reaction engineering. Results are obtained from using flame and pyrolysis experiments; molecular-beam mass spectrometry, computational quantum chemistry; and reactive-flow modeling. The main technology driver is clean energy from fossil and biofuels, but he has also been involved with developing fire-safe polymers, hypergolic rocket fuels, plasma processing of microelectronics, chemical looping, and PrIMe, an international data cyberinfrastructure. He is author or co-author of 111 peer-reviewed publications and five books.
He served as 2013 President of AIChE, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and is a currently a trustee of the educational nonprofit CACHE Corporation, having served as its president in 2004-06. He is a past board member of the Combustion Institute (2002-2014), the Council for Chemical Research (2005-07), and AIChE (2009-11), and he was the founding Chair of AIChE’s Computational Molecular Science and Engineering Forum.
His teaching, research, and service have been recognized in recent years by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab's David Shirley Award, AIChE's Gary Leach Award and George Lappin Award, ASEE's William Corcoran Award, the National Science Foundation Director’s Award for Collaborative Integration, the UMass College of Engineering’s Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, and by his being named Fellow of AIChE.