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Oklahoma State University

OSU Chemical Engineering Professor Continues Tradition of National Science Foundation Awards

Dr. Jeffery L. White, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oklahoma State University, was recently recognized as the Principal Investigator on a new award from the Chemical Catalysis division of the National Science Foundation entitled “Understanding an Active and Beneficial Role for Water in Solid-Acid Catalyzed Hydrocarbon Chemistry”.  The $848K project includes three collaborators at OU with whom Dr. White has worked for many years, Dr. Daniel Resasco, Dr. Steven Crossley, and Dr. Bin Wang.  This is Dr. White’s seventh consecutive nationally-competitive NSF grant as Principal Investigator, having received his first in 2001.  In addition to this new award, Dr. White is currently PI on another NSF grant from the Division of Materials Research for his polymer research, and from the Division of Chemistry for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) project administered through the Department of Chemistry.

The new award will focus on identifying the fundamental principles of water’s interaction with catalyst surfaces in the presence of a variety of potential reagent molecules, many of which are derived from renewable sources like biomass.  Designing catalysts that can maintain high activity in the presence of water is challenging, and utilization of non-traditional energy and chemical feedstock sources like biomass or waste streams that generate water during the reaction requires solutions to these deficiencies.  In recent papers in ACS Catalysis and the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the White group has discovered that contrary to conventional wisdom, very small amounts of water can actually increase catalyst reactivity in some cases where the catalyst design is optimized, suggesting routes to successful chemical transformations under heterogeneous or “messy” reaction conditions.   Through a series of experimental and computational efforts involving his collaborators, the new project will elucidate the fundamental science behind recent intriguing observations, and capitalize on the findings to advance catalyst and process design across a wide range of reaction conditions relevant to the practice of heterogeneous catalysis.