Developing new catalysts and processes for the sustainable production of fuels and chemicals

Speaker: Thomas Jaramillo, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University
Host: Energy Graduate Group
Date: 11/30/2018
Time: 10:30am to 11:50am
Location: 1605 Tilia Street, West Village, UC Davis

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Abstract:  The vast majority of fuels and chemicals that are produced and consumed across the globe today are derived from fossil fuels: oil, coal, and natural gas. The long list includes conventional liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, in addition to many other products such as plastics (e.g. polyethylene) and fertilizer (i.e. ammonia, NH3). Society has benefitted tremendously from the science and engineering efforts that have brought these crucial products to market at a global scale. Continuing to use fossil-based resources at such high rates, however, could potentially lead to troubling consequences ahead. This motivates the development of new chemical processes to produce the same kinds of fuels and chemicals that we rely on, using renewable energy and sustainable feedstocks instead.

We seek to employ renewable energy (e.g. wind and solar) to power the production of fuels and chemicals in a sustainable manner. This effort is largely motivated by the dropping costs of renewable electricity, the growing penetration of renewables into energy markets, and the need for storing variable electricity. This talk will describe efforts to develop catalyst materials and associated processes capable of driving important chemical transformations in a sustainable manner involving renewable energy. Specific examples include the production of hydrogen (H2), carbon-based products (e.g. hydrocarbons, alcohols), and ammonia (NH3) fertilizer.

The development of catalysts with appropriate properties can serve as the basis of new, renewable pathways to produce the large-scale fuels and chemicals that could play a major role in reaching sustainability goals for the globe.

Bio:  Thomas Francisco Jaramillo is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of the SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis at Stanford University. A native of Puerto Rico, Prof. Jaramillo first came to Stanford University to pursue his B.S. in Chemical Engineering, followed by graduate school at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) where he earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. Prof. Jaramillo then conducted post-doctoral research in the Department of Physics at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) as a Hans Christian Ørsted Post-doctoral Fellow prior to returning to Stanford to embark on his independent research career.

Prof. Jaramillo's research efforts are aimed at developing materials and processes that can accelerate important chemical transformations related to energy conversion with improved efficiency and durability. The overarching theme is the development of cost-effective, clean energy technologies that can benefit societal and economic growth while minimizing impacts to the environment. In pursuit of these goals, Prof. Jaramillo conducts fundamental studies into semiconductors and catalyst materials to understand the physical and chemical factors that govern their performance, insights which he then leverages to engineer improved materials and devices for sustainable energy.

Prof. Jaramillo has won a number of awards for his efforts, including the Resonate Award from the Resnick Institute (2014), the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists & Engineers (PECASE, 2011), the U.S. Dept. of Energy Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program Research & Development Award (2011), the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award (2011), and the Mohr-Davidow Ventures (MDV) Innovator Award (2009).