Juan Bravo Suarez, Assistant Professor of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering, has been awarded a Doctoral New Investigator grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.
The two-year, $110,000 award seeks to reveal the mysteries behind an industrial process for making propylene, one of the most versatile building blocks in chemical manufacturing. Propylene is made with the help of catalysts, substances that trigger molecules to break apart and reform into other molecules. Many consumer goods, such as plastics, fuels, cosmetics and detergents, get their start from propylene.
At KU, Bravo-Suarez will be well-equipped to peek inside the inner workings of catalysts. Armed with infrared, Raman and UV-visible spectroscopic equipment, his team will look at catalysts in action, just as ethylene and butene molecules are transformed into propylene in a process called metathesis.
“Knowing how catalysts work will help us design more efficient catalysts and cheaper ways to make propylene,” said Bravo Suarez. “It will also help us to find new and better ways to produce more with less.”