Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis
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What we offer

CEBC's internationally recognized faculty members offer a unique mix of expertise in developing catalytic processes.  With guidance from the director, Bala Subramaniam, and deputy director, RV Chaudhari, the center develops and tests a variety of catalysts, novel reaction media, and catalytic options.  In addition, the team specializes in catalyst separation and retention techniques, including polymer-bound ligands for homogeneous catalysts.  Kinetic modeling of catalytic reactions is also integrated with experimental studies to aid in the design and scale-up of reactors for commercial use.

Importantly, the team uses a multi-scale approach.  In other words, economic and environmental assessments facilitate a complete understanding of the practical viability of our new technologies, including any challenges presented. Information gained at the microscopic level from computational chemistry studies is also combined with that from empirical kinetic and thermodynamic data to develop and optimize catalytic systems.  This approach is essential for developing new processes that are cost-competitive, energy efficient and eco-friendly.

Key reaction areas include:

  • Epoxidations
  • Spray oxidations
  • Ozonolysis
  • Hydroformylations
  • Hydrogenations/hydrogenolysis
  • Liquid acid catalyst replacements

Unique Theoretical/Computational Chemistry Network at CEBC

The University of Kansas Department of Chemistry has one of the largest and most well-rounded groups of faculty working in the area of theoretical and computational chemistry of any university of its size in the U.S. The six associated faculty work in complementary areas of theoretical/computational chemistry including analytical theory, quantum dynamics, statistical mechanics, electronic structure, chemical dynamics and method development, providing an exciting, highly collaborative research environment.  Currently, Profs. Brian Laird, Ward Thompson, and Tim Jackson are working closely with other CEBC faculty to help understand various systems at the molecular level—such as gas expanded liquids, epoxidations, ozonolysis, and hydroformylations.  The work is proving especially useful at elucidating the impact of phosphine ligand properties on experimentally observed regioselectivity trends in hydroformylation processes. 

Selected news and publications

  • CEBC receives $4.4 million from NSF and EPA to design safer chemical manufacturing processes
  • “The Criegee intermediate reaction with CO.  Mechanism, barriers, conformer-dependence, and implications for ozonolysis chemistry,” M. Kumar, D.H. Busch, B. Subramaniam, and W.H. Thompson, J. Phys. Chem. A, 118, 1887-1894 (2014).
  • “A combined experimental-computational investigation of methane adsorption and selectivity in a series of isoreticular zeolitic imidazolate frameworks”, Y.A. Houndonougbo, C.Signer, N. He, K. Ray, W. Morris, H. Furukawa, M.D. Asta, B.B. Laird,and O.M. Yaghi, J. Phys. Chem. C, 117, 10326 –10335 (2013).
  •  “Origins of CH4/CO2 adsorption selectivity in zeolitic imidazolate frameworks: a van der Waals density functional theory study”, K.G. Ray, D. Olmsted, Y. Houndonougbo,  B.B. Laird,and M. Asta, J. Phys. Chem. C, 117, 14642 –14651 (2013).

Guided by economic and environmental assessments

The only way to know for sure if new processes cost less than conventional methods is to do the math, adding up the cost for every possible expense.  At CEBC, we perform plant-scale simulations of our target processes verses commercial benchmarks. Such comparative economic analyses are critical for developing cost-competitve processes.  Our industry partners look at these analyses to make business decisions.

But cost is only one factor.  CEBC researchers also perform life cycle assessments to quantify potential environmental impacts for new processes and compare the results to conventional processes. We look at everything—all the raw materials, products, byproducts, wastes and energy —at every step from cradle to manufacturing exit gate.  Performing such assessments early in the development process allows researchers a chance to identify hot spots and design new technologies with minimal ecological harm.

Selected news and publications

  • New technology for terephthalic acid is cheaper. But is it greener? 
  • "Terephthalic Acid Production via Greener Spray Process: Comparative Economic and Environmental Impact Assessments with Mid-Century Process," Li, M.; Ruddy, T.; Fahey, D.; Busch, D. H.; Subramaniam, B. ACS Sus. Chem. Eng. 2014 In Press. (Abstract)
  • "Comparative Economic and Environmental Assessments of H2O2-based and Tertiary Butyl Hydroperoxide-based Propylene Oxide Technologies," Ghanta, M.; Fahey, D. R.; Busch, D. H.; Subramaniam, B. ACS Sustain. Chem. Eng. 2013 1:2 267-277. (Abstract)
  • "Environmental impacts of ethylene production from diverse feedstocks and energy sources," Ghanta, M.; Fahey, D.; Subramaniam, B. Appl. Petrochem. Res. 2013 (10.1007/s13203-013-0029-7). (Abstract)
  • "Is the Liquid-Phase H2O2-based Ethylene Oxide Process More Economical and Greener Than the Gas-Phase O2-based Silver-Catalyzed Process?" Ghanta, M.; Ruddy, T.; Fahey, D.; Busch, D.; Subramaniam, B. nd. Eng. Chem. Res. 2013 52:1 18-29. (Abstract)




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