Armour College of Engineering Lecture: Microchemical Systems to Address Challenges in Energy and Biology

Armour College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (ChBE) will host a lecture “Microchemical Systems to Address Challenges in Energy and Biology” by Paul J. A. Kenis from 3:15-4:30 pm on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in the Perlstein Hall Auditorium, Room 131. Kenis is the William H. and  Janet G. Lycan Professor and Head of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Over the last decade, microchemical systems have been developed for a wide range of applications. In this seminar, Kenis will first highlight the recent efforts in the conversion of CO2 into value-added chemicals. Multiple strategies, such as switching to renewable energy sources and improving the energy efficiency of, for example, buildings, will need to be pursued to curb further increase of the atmospheric CO2 level that has been identified as a major contributor to climate change. Another approach is the capture and subsequent electrochemical conversion of CO2 into useful chemicals such as formic acid, methanol, or CO. This presentation will cover the latest results in studying a range of catalysts (metal nanoparticles, organometallic compounds, metal-free systems), electrodes, and operating conditions (different electrolyte compositions), especially for the conversion of CO2 to CO, which is a starting material for synthetic fuel production via the Fischer-Tropsch process.

The second part of this seminar will focus on various microfluidic platforms for crystallization. Kenis and his team have developed a number of chip configurations that enable the high throughput screening and analysis of (membrane) protein crystals and of solid forms of pharmaceuticals. These microfluidic array chips drastically reduce the amount of material needed thus many more conditions can be screened and they eliminate manual handling of fragile crystals. The team has successfully identified crystallization conditions of novel proteins, followed by successful on-chip X-ray structure determination. The use of similar chips for solid form screening (salts, polymorphs, …) of candidate drugs and the subsequent on-chip analysis of the solid forms with Raman Spectroscopy will also be discussed.