Current News

Breaking molecular traffic jams with finned nanoporous materials

Zeolite finsAug. 11, 2020 - Thousands of chemical processes used by the energy industry and for other applications rely on the high speed of catalytic reactions, but molecules frequently are hindered by molecular traffic jams that slow them down. Researchers at the University of Minnesota are part of an international team that has invented an entirely new class of porous catalysts using unique fins to speed up the chemistry by allowing molecules to skip the lines that limit the reaction. The discovery has immediate relevance to industry for a host of applications, including the production of fuels, chemicals for plastics and polymers, and reactions that make molecules for food, medicine and personal care products. The research was published in Nature Materials, the leading journal of materials science.  Read more.  

Energy researchers invent error-free catalysts

Molecules selectivityMarch 5, 2020 - A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Delaware, and University of California Santa Barbara have invented oscillating catalyst technology that can accelerate chemical reactions without side reactions or chemical errors. The groundbreaking technology can be incorporated into hundreds of industrial chemical technologies to reduce waste by thousands of tons each year while improving the performance and cost-efficiency of materials production. This research is published in Chemical Science, the premiere journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

In chemical reactions, scientists use what are called catalysts to speed reactions. A chemical reaction occurring on a catalyst surface such as a metal will accelerate faster than undesirable side reactions. When the primary reaction is much faster than every other side reaction, then the catalyst is good at selecting for the most valuable products. The side reactions are errors in chemistry control, and they result in significant generation of wasted material and economic loss.  Read More

Energy researchers break the catalytic speed limit

Wave animationJune 4, 2019 - A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and University of Massachusetts Amherst has discovered new technology that can speed up chemical reactions 10,000 times faster than the current reaction rate limit. These findings could increase the speed and lower the cost of thousands of chemical processes used in developing fertilizers, foods, fuels, plastics, and more. The research is published online in ACS Catalysis, a leading journal of the American Chemical Society.

Researchers of the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, found that they could break the speed limit by applying waves to the catalyst to create an oscillating catalyst. The wave has a top and bottom, and when applied, it permits both parts of a chemical reaction to occur independently at different speeds. When the wave applied to the catalyst surface matched the natural frequency of a chemical reaction, the rate went up dramatically via a mechanism called “resonance.”  Read More.  

Dauenhauer Interviewed by NPR

Tire Swing Aug. 2, 2017. Can you make car tires from trees and grass? University of Minnesota researchers can.  They've discovered a new way to make isoprene (a key molecule in car tires) which means the tires made from biomass would be identical to the tires we're using now - the ones made primarily from fossil fuels. The conversation is moving forward now on two fronts.  Economic analysis is looking into how to get the tires into production at a competitive price.  But at the same time, a variety of disciplines across the University are looking into sustainable processes and the big picture: what kinds of implications could renewable tires have?  If you missed the story on Earthwise, you can listen to it here.  Earthwise is a regular feature of Northland Morning, every morning at 7:08am.  Listen Here

CEMS alumni named 2017 MN Cup division winners

University of Minnesota FlagSept. 27, 2017 - CEMS alumni Connor Beach (ChE '17) and Christoph Krumm (Ph.D. ChE '16) represented Sironix Renewables at the 2017 MN Cup competition and won the Energy/Clean Tech/Water division. As division winners, Sironix Renewables will receive $30,000 to invest in its breakout idea and advances to the finals of the competition. Krumm is the President and Co-Founder of Sironix Renewables, a seed-stage company developing environmentally friendly and safe chemicals from plants to be used for industrial consumer products.

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Dauenhauer to deliver 2017 Thiele Lecture

Sept. 12, 2017 - Associate Professor Paul Dauenhauer has been selected to deliver the 2017 Ernest W. Thiele Lecture at the University of Notre Dame on September 26, 2017. The Thiele Lectureship was established in 1986 to honor Dr. Thiele's association with the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. The Lectureship is intended to recognize outstanding research contributions by a younger member of the chemical engineering profession. 

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Paul Dauenhauer interviewed in the Analytical Scientist

June 2017 - Professor Paul Dauenhauer explains how analysis techniques developed in his lab lead to a new discovery to make isoprene (used in car tires) from sugar. You can read the full interview in the Analytical Scientist.

UMN Researchers Develop Breakthrough Renewable Butadiene Process

Recycling LogoApril 26, 2017 - Synthetic rubber and plastics—used for manufacturing tires, toys and myriad other products—are produced from butadiene, a molecule traditionally made from petroleum or natural gas. But those man-made materials could get a lot greener soon, thanks to the ingenuity of a team of scientists from three U.S. research universities. The scientific team—from the University of Minnesota, University of Delaware, and the University of Massachusetts—has invented a process to make butadiene from renewable sources like trees, grasses and corn. The findings are published online in the American Chemical Society’s ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, a leading journal in green chemistry and engineering. The study’s authors are all affiliated with the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI) based at the University of Delaware. CCEI is an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Dauenhauer interviewed by Sustainable Nano Podcast

Paul Dauenhauer March 15, 2017. 

What if car tires could be made from renewable resources instead of petroleum? In this episode of the podcast, we interview Dr. Paul Dauenhauer, part of a research team from the Center for Sustainable Polymers who have developed a new chemical process to make isoprene (one of the key ingredients in car tires) from biomass such as grass or corn. 

Listen Here.

Researchers invent a breakthrough process to produce renewable car tires from trees and grasses

Car Tires

MINNEAPOLIS/ST.PAUL (02/08/17) – A team of researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, has invented a new technology to produce automobile tires from trees and grasses in a process that could shift the tire production industry toward using renewable resources found right in our backyards. The University of Minnesota, through its Office for Technology Commercialization, has applied for a patent on the renewable rubber technology and plans to license the technology to companies interested in commercializing the technology. The new study is published by the American Chemical Society’s ACS Catalysis, a leading journal in the chemical and catalysis sciences. Authors of the study, include researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Center for Sustainable Polymers, a National Science Foundation-funded center at the University of Minnesota.

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Researchers invent ‘perfect’ soap molecule that is better for the environment and cleans in all conditions

Soap Bubbles

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (10/26/16) — A team of researchers, led by the University of Minnesota, has invented a new soap molecule made from renewable sources that could dramatically reduce the number of chemicals in cleaning products and their impact on the environment. The soap molecules also worked better than some conventional soaps in challenging conditions such as cold water and hard water. The technology has been patented by the University of Minnesota and is licensed to the new Minnesota-based startup company Sironix Renewables. The new study is now online and will be published in the next issue of the American Chemical Society’s ACS Central Science, a leading journal in the chemical sciences. Authors of the study include researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of Delaware, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Sironix Renewables, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation and Argonne National Laboratory.

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Research team invents new chemical detector

Jan. 20, 2015 - Associate Professor Paul J. Dauenhauer is part of a team of researchers at the University of Delaware's Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI) that recently invented the Quantitative Carbon Detector (QCD), a new device that identifies and quantifies chemical compounds in complex mixtures such as fuels, oils, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food. This new instrument will have a significant impact on the amount of time required for chemical analysis. "The QCD is really the holy grail of chemical analysis," says Dauenhauer, co-director of CCEI. "Utilizing this new technology allows us to focus our effort on catalytic science rather than tedious and expensive chemical calibrations." The research was published in the January issue of the journal Lab on a Chip, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  Read More