School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Seminar Series

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 112
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    Renewable Electricity as a Feed Stock for the Chemical Industry
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-12-08) Moses, Poul Georg
    Heavy industry and long-haul transportation are responsible for a large percentage of humanity's greenhouse-gas emissions. In these sectors, direct electrification is not enough. They need energy-dense green fuels – similar to the fuels used today, but made from renewable sources. In this presentation a set of solutions will be presented. Solutions based on combining proven technologies from the chemical industry with new technology to produce essential chemicals and fuels such as green hydrogen, green ammonia, eMethanol, and other clean fuels from non-fossil feedstocks such as biomass, waste and renewable electricity. The most critical new technology in terms of cost and energy loss is water electrolysis for hydrogen production. A deep dive on the most efficient electrolysis technology, high temperature solid oxide electrolysis will be given ranging from basic thermodynamics to process integration for chemicals production.
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    The Energy Transition and the Role of Direct Air Capture
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-11-17) Lackner, Klaus S.
    The rapid drop in the price of renewable energy portends massive changes in the world’s energy infrastructure and offers hope that climate change can be addressed. Incumbent fossil fuel technologies, hamstrung by concerns over climate change, will are having difficulties to adapt to the new world. To avert a climate disaster, the energy transition must happen fast. However, it will likely take too long. Like any transition in a complex system, it very likely will introduce instabilities. Yet the transition must be executed flawlessly because, just like climate change, large-scale interruptions in energy services could have global catastrophic consequences. Growing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption are the main cause of climate change. Excess carbon dioxide will linger in the atmosphere for centuries. Decades of procrastination have put the world on a trajectory that will overshoot the climate targets set by the international community. The uncontrolled dumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will have to stop, and carbon excess will have to be removed from the environment. The scale of the necessary drawdown is far beyond the scope of capture by photosynthetic processes and storage in natural sinks. Direct capture of carbon dioxide from ambient air combined with technical carbon storage offers a scalable solution to this waste management problem. Eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector and cleaning up prior emissions is a gargantuan task likely lead by renewable energy. Even though the intermittency of renewable energy poses a formidable challenge, renewable energy is already pushing into the market and is beginning to displace fossil energy sources. Yet, displacing oil and gas for long-term storage and transportation, especially aviation, will be difficult. However, production of synthetic fuels and substitutes for petrochemical from renewable energy, carbon dioxide and water will make abandoning carbonaceous fuels and materials unnecessary. Advances in direct air capture enable a complete transition to renewable energy without abandoning existing energy infrastructures and combine this transition with the necessary massive drawdown of excess carbon in the environment. We will discuss the technologic and economic requirements, consider possible pathways and highlight gaps in our current understanding. In summary, we argue that photovoltaic electricity should not be shoe-horned into the existing electricity grid but be fed into a large and diverse supply chain, that provides grid electricity, charges batteries for short term storage, produces a variety of fuels and chemicals, produces synthetic hydrocarbon storage to iron out variability in resource availability on timescales ranging from weeks to decades and lastly powers the drawdown of excess carbon from the environment. The least developed aspect of this vision is direct air capture technology. It appears within reach, but it will need a global development effort to succeed.
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    Reprogramming the Immune Response Through Biomolecular Engineering
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-10-20) Spangler, Jamie
    The repertoire of naturally occurring proteins is finite and many molecules induce multiple confounding effects, limiting their efficacy as therapeutics. Recently, there has been a growing interest in redesigning existing proteins or engineering entirely new proteins to address the deficiencies of molecules found in nature. Researchers have traditionally taken an unbiased approach to protein engineering, but as our knowledge of protein structure-function relationships advances, we have the exciting opportunity to apply molecular principles to guide engineering. Leveraging cutting-edge tools and technologies in structural biology and molecular design, our lab is pioneering a unique structure-based engineering approach to elucidate the mechanistic determinants of protein activity, in order to inform therapeutic development. Our group is particularly interested in engineering immune proteins, such as cytokines, growth factors, and antibodies, to bias the immune response for targeted disease treatment. Despite the recent explosive growth of protein drugs within the pharmaceutical market, limitations such as delivery, acquired resistance, and toxicity have impeded realization of the full potential of these therapeutics, necessitating new approaches that synergize with existing strategies to address clinically unmet needs. This talk will highlight ongoing work in our lab that spans the discovery, design, and translation of novel molecular immunotherapeutics for applications ranging from cancer to autoimmune disorders to regenerative medicine.
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    Thinking About Data: Representations, Transformations, and Applications
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-10-13) Zavala, Victor M.
    A dataset can be represented in different mathematical forms; for example, a micrograph can be represented as an image, as a matrix, as a graph (network), or as an intensity function. These representations are used to perform transformations of the data with the goal of extracting different types of features such as spatial patterns, geometrical patterns, correlations, principal components, gradients of light, and frequencies. These features contain key information that facilitate visualization and analysis, detection of abnormalities, and construction of predictive models. In this talk, we show how to use representations and transformations in innovative ways to analyze complex datasets arising in flow cytometry, liquid crystals, chemical processes, and molecular dynamics. We show how these tools can be used to design chemical sensors for the detection of contaminants in air and liquid mixtures, to predict reaction rates for acid-catalyzed reactions, to predict material properties from images, and to detect faults.
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    Progress Towards the Industrialization of Electrochemical CO2 Reduction
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-10-06) Flake, John
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    Electrokinetics, Transport and Stability of Metal/Electrolyte Interfaces in Secondary Batteries
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-10-30) Archer, Lynden A.
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    Shape-Selective Growth of Nanoscale Materials: Insights From Multi-Scale Theory and Simulation
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-10-16) Fichthorn, Kristen
    Metal nanocrystals have gained tremendous attention due to their superior performance in various applications, ranging from selective catalysis to electronic devices to plasmonic applications, such as photovoltaics and sensing. The properties of nanocrystals are highly sensitive to their size and shape. To this end, solution-phase synthetic protocols have been highly successful at producing a variety of nanocrystal structures. However, great challenges remain in achieving high selectivity to particular nanostructures. A significant difficulty lies in understanding and controlling shape evolution in these systems. A deep, fundamental understanding of the phenomena that promote selective growth in these syntheses would enable tight control of nanostructure morphologies in next-generation techniques. I will discuss our efforts to understand the workings of PVP, a polymer capping molecule that facilitates the formation of selective Ag nanoparticle shapes. In these studies, we use first-principles density-functional theory (DFT) to characterize the binding of PVP repeat units to Ag(100) and Ag(111) surfaces. To understand the solution-phase binding of PVP to these Ag surfaces, we develop a new metal-organic many-body force field with high fidelity to DFT. We implement this force field into molecular-dynamics (MD) simulations to characterize the potential of mean force and the mean first-passage times for solution-phase Ag atoms to reach PVP-covered Ag facets. Using these mean first-passage times, we predict kinetic shapes of large Ag nanocrystals (around 100 nm) and show that these should be {100}-faceted cubes. We also use MD simulations to characterize the interfacial free energies of PVP-covered Ag facets in solution. The thermodynamic shapes that we predict in these calculations are truncated octahedra, with a predominance of {111} facets. These findings are consistent with experimental observations that sufficiently small Ag nanocrystals tend to have shapes with a predominance of {111} facets and larger nanocrystals become {100}-faceted during solution-phase growth in the presence of PVP. Though our studies are consistent with experiments that demonstrate nanocube growth can be directed by PVP alone, many studies have demonstrated that more robust nanocube syntheses can be achieved in the presence of halide additives. We use DFT-based ab initio thermodynamics calculations to probe the influence of chloride on Ag nanoshapes. Consistent with experiment, these calculations indicate that chloride adsorption alone can lead to truncated Ag cubes. “Late breaking” calculations indicate there is a synergistic interaction between Cl and PVP, whereby the combination of these two additives can lead to “pointy” Ag cubes.
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    Multiscale Modeling of Tissues, Treatments, and Toxicology
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-10-09) Ford Versypt, Ashlee N.
    The Systems Biomedicine and Pharmaceutics research lab at Oklahoma State University led by Dr. Ford Versypt focuses on developing and utilizing multiscale systems engineering approaches including mathematical and computational modeling to determine and understand the mechanisms governing physiological effects of various chemicals, e.g., pharmaceutical drugs, toxins, metabolites, and hormones, on human and animal tissues. We specialize in modeling the transport processes and chemical interactions related to both natural and engineered biomedical and pharmaceutical systems. We also develop and refine the computational software elements to support multiscale modeling of such systems. We draw from an interdisciplinary skillset in chemical engineering, pharmaceutics, physiology, applied mathematics, and computational science. In this seminar, vignettes of recently published work from the lab in four different lines of research will be highlighted including (1) the immune system interplay with tuberculosis granulomas, (2) metastatic cancer spread, (3) bumblebee behaviors in response to chronic exposure to pesticides, and (4) glucose-stimulated damage to kidney cells in diabetes and preventative pharmaceutical treatments. The latter area has recently been funded by an NSF CAREER award and exemplifies the integration of teaching, research, and outreach.
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    Why Are There So Few Female Faculty Members in Several STEM Fields? What Needs To Be Done?
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-09-11) Kuck, Valerie
    Since 2009 women have received a majority of the doctoral degrees granted by U.S. institutions.In several scientific fields women have made great strides, whereas in a number of STEM areas the progress has been substantially slower.ln 2017 women received 53% of the doctorates in Biological and Agricultural Sciences and 70% in the Health and Medical Sciences.In contrast, women earned only 23% of the doctorates in engineering, 25% in mathematics and computer sciences, and 34% in the physical and earth sciences.Over the years, the percentage of tenure-line female faculty members in the physical sciences, engineering and mathematics has remained low. Findings from an analysis of the responses to surveys and site visit discussions that involved over 1200 administrators, chemistry and chemical engineering faculty members, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will be discussed.The hiring rate of female faculty members and factors contributing to their career choices will also be addressed.
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    World’s First Commercial CO2 to Methanol Plant
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-08-28) Richter, Christaan
    The George Olah CO2 to methanol plant, commissioned in April 2012, currently produces ~ 5 million liters/year renewable methanol and capture and convert up to ~ 5600 ton CO2/year [Lim 2016, Nature, 526(630)]. This Carbon Recycling International (CRI) plant is located in Svartsengi, near Grindavik, Iceland. The process was originally developed by a small CRI team in Reykjavik, and has undergone several iterations to arrive at the present state of technology and functionality. Taking the process from pilot scale to industrial scale was not trivial. Several difficulties encountered along the way were resolved to arrive at the current robust version of the technology. The high purity renewable methanol currently produced is sold as gasoline additive, similar to ethanol in the USA. Perhaps the most consequential lesson learned from this enterprise is that producing methanol from CO2 need not be as expensive as most experts estimated; the production cost of the ‘green methanol’ produced at the George Olah plant is only approximately twice that of natural gas derived methanol. A second interesting lesson involves the optimal process configuration: There exist two viable catalytic routes to convert CO2 to methanol. The most familiar option is to first reduce CO2 to CO through the RWGS reaction and then reduce CO with H2 to methanol in a second step or reactor. The CRI process instead implements the direct hydrogenation of CO2 with H2 over a mixed metal oxide catalyst. The presentation will include a brief history of the R&D and early development of the process, followed by a discussion of selected process features. Currently two world-wide implementation opportunities are actively pursued, namely the transformation of stranded H2 into a liquid commodity and a combined CCU and energy storage option for intermittent renewables. The presentation will conclude with a motivation for the ongoing research addressing the main barriers to bringing renewable CO2-derived methanol even closer to becoming cost competitive with refinery CH4-derived methanol.