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What is sustainability? What is green? Can one tweak brown reagents and processes to be green? After defining the terms, I will show with examples how reagents can be made greener by small changes in structure or by mixing them for synergistic packing and orientation at interfaces for maximum efficiency within the constraints of energy and environment. A major challenge facing us today is to achieve economic growth within these constraints in a sustainable manner. In this talk, I will present examples of our recent work on application of greener surfactants in the energy area including novel ways for direct conversion of carbon dioxide into fuels. These emerging technologies can make the energy sector more sustainable and close the anthropogenic carbon cycle. Thus commercialization of solar fuel processes can be facilitated by using earth abundant and benign catalysts. Another pathway to greener processes is through the efficient use of bio-based active materials, such as enzymes for bio-fuel production, or light capturing proteins for bio-based photovoltaic technology. Additions of select surfactants can be used to improve the durability and activity of these enzymes and proteins, maximizing their potential for greener applications. The greener surface agents can also be employed in personal care formulations where our work has looked into replacing conventional surfaces with greener ones. I will end by attempting to outline critical challenges in developing these technologies.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

200 College Street
Wallberg Building
Room 116

PONISSERIL SOMASUNDARAN received his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and before that his Bachelor of Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science andShaily Mahendra Bachelor of Science from Kerala University.  After 5 years with the International Minerals and Chemical Corporation and Reynolds Industries, he was invited by Columbia University in 1970 to join the faculty of the prestigious Henry Krumb School of Mines. In 1983 he was invested as the first La von Duddleson Krumb Professor, in 1987 he became the first Director of the Langmuir Center for Colloids & Interfaces, and in 1998 he assumed the directorship of the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Center for Advanced Studies in Novel Surfactants. He was also elected Chairperson of the Henry Krumb School in 1988 and 1991, Chairperson of Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Material Science & Mineral Engineering in 1992 and 1995. 

He was inducted in l985 into the National Academy of Engineering, the highest professional distinction that can be conferred to an engineer at that time, and later to the Chinese National Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and the Balkan Academy of Mineral Technology Sciences. More recently he was the sole Foreign Fellow elected to the Royal Society of Canada.

Prof. Somasundaran is the author/editor of 15 books and over 700 scientific publications and patents.  He was recently appointed to the EPA BOSC (Board of Science Council) and will chair  the combined BOSC Subcommittees for Chemical Safety for Sustainability and Human Health Risk Assessment research program, as well as to the executive committee.

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