Virginia Tech: Invent the Future Department of Chemical Engineering


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Department of Chemical Engineering

ChE undergraduate program ranked #18 by US News & World Report

Goodwin Hall

September 14, 2016. We are pleased to announce that the chemical engineering undergraduate program at Virginia Tech has been ranked 18th in the nation in the 2017 US News & World Report college rankings.

Department of Chemical Engineering

A new model published in Physical Review Letters aims to unlock catalytic powers of gold

Hongliang Xin

March 2017
Prof. Hongliang Xin and his postdoc Dr. Xianfeng Ma authored the article "Orbitalwise Coordination Number for Predicting Adsorption Properties of Metal Nanocatalysts" in the Physical Review Letters. This new model challenges the conventional wisdom of the standard d-band model, and can potentially predict just the right formula of gold catalysts to achieve a desired outcome for a given chemical reaction. You can read more at VTNews and This work is mainly funded by the National Science Foundation Catalysis Program and partially supported by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Bobby Hollingsworth named College of Engineering Outstanding Senior for 2017

Bobby Hollingsworth

February 2017.
The College of Engineering has named Louis "Bobby" Hollingsworth as the Outstanding Senior for 2017. A 2015 Goldwater Scholarship winner, Hollingsworth will graduate in May with B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, and a B.A. degree in Chemistry.

Congratulations Bobby!

Department of Chemical Engineering: ChE-car

Julia Ross named dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech

Dr. Julia M. Ross

January 2017.
Virginia Tech has appointed Dr. Julia M. Ross as dean of the College of Engineering following an international search process. We are excited to welcome Dr. Ross as our new dean, and as a tenured faculty member with appointments in Chemical Engineering and Engineering Education.
Dr. Ross will begin at Virginia Tech on July 31, 2017.

Read more

Department of Chemical Engineering

Rajagopalan named fellow of AIMBE

Padma Rajagopalan

December 2016.
Professor Padma Rajagopalan, the Robert E. Hord Jr. Professor of Chemical Engineering, has been elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). The AIMBE College of Fellows represents the most accomplished and distinguished medical and biological engineers responsible for innovation and discovery, and is a select group of the top 2% of medical and biological engineering professionals.

AIMBE is a nonprofit, honorific society that serves as the authoritative voice and advocate for the value of medical and biological engineering to society. It is an organization of leaders in their fields, consisting of academic, industrial, and professional society councils; and the individually-elected members of the College of Fellows.

Congratulations Professor Rajagopalan!

Department of Chemical Engineering: ChE-car

Chem-E-Car Team Competes in National Competition

Chem-E-Car Team Members (L to R): Jim Owens, Brett Rastatter, Courtner Clark, Rebecca Engler, Bobby Hollingsworth

November 2016. The Virginia Tech Chem-E-Car team placed seventh in the Chem-E-Car competition at the 2016 National American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Conference in San Francisco, California on November 13, 2016. This is the team's third consecutive top ten finish at the national competition, this year competing against forty other cars from universities across the country and around the world. The VT team also placed second in the accompanying poster competition.

The Chem-E-Car competition tests a team's ability to design and construct a shoe-box sized car that is powered by a chemical energy source that safely carries a specified load over a given distance and stops via the direct control of a chemical reaction. Virginia Tech's team consists of two seniors: team leader Bobby Hollingsworth (Springfield, VA), and Courtner Clark (Leesburg, VA); two juniors: Rebecca Engler (Hockessin, DE), and Brett Rastatter (Woodbridge, VA); and one sophomore, Jim Owens (Downingtown, PA). Their faculty advisor is Dr. Stephen Martin, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering.

This year, the Virginia Tech car relied on a lead acid-based battery that powered the vehicle, and the team implemented on-board computer control to manage the vehicle systems and monitor a novel cinnamaldehyde-based chemical reaction to stop the car. Team leader Bobby Hollingsworth explained that "there were a lot of challenges associated with the chemical reaction this year; our reaction releases heat, causing complexities in modeling its behavior." Despite these challenges, the Tech Chem-E-Car stopped within 6 inches of the target distance of 56 feet.

The team wishes to acknowledge the generous financial support of VT alumnus Steve Cope and ExxonMobil. The team also wished to thank the staff in the Department of Chemical Engineering for administrative and technical support.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Joey Sarver Places 1st at the AIChE Undergraduate Research Poster Competition

Joey Sarver and Dr Erdogan Kiran

Joey Sarver, a senior majoring in Chemical Engineering from Wytheville, Virginia placed first in the Materials Engineering and Sciences section of the undergraduate poster competition at the 2016 AIChE Annual Meeting held during November 13-18, 2016 in San Francisco, California. Currently, Joey is participating in undergraduate research in Dr. Erdogan Kiran's Supercritical Fluids lab. His poster titled "Gradient Foaming of Polymers in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide" dealt with a unique experimental system for foaming, and the recent results of foaming of Poly(methyl methacrylate) rods while analyzing the subsequent pore morphology.
Over 400 posters from around the globe were presented in topics ranging from reaction engineering to computing and process control.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Notable Publications

Rong Tong

October 2016. Dr. Rong Tong’s previous research in the treatment of otitis media by transtympanic delivery of antibiotics has been published in Science Translational Medicine and was selected for the cover of the September 14th issue. Otitis media, commonly referred to as "ear infection," is a ubiquitous childhood malady that accounts for many pediatrician visits and antibiotic prescriptions and is difficult to treat. To address these problems, Dr. Tong and coworkers developed a hydrogel-based system that permits delivery of antibiotics directly into the ear and demonstrated its effectiveness in a chinchilla model of ear infection.

In addition, his paper on "Controlled Ring-Opening Polymerization of O-Carboxyanhydrides Using a β-Diiminate Zinc Catalyst" has been published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition. The paper reports the development of a β-diiminate zinc catalyst containing methyl lactate as initiator for the living polymerization of O-carboxyanhydrides with a superior level of stereochemistry retention.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Companies Sponsor Center of Excellence in Chemical Engineering

Y.A. Liu

September 2016    China National Petroleum Company ("PetroChina"), Beijing, China, and Aspen Technology, Inc., ("AspenTech"), Bedford, Massachusetts, have signed a multi-year agreement with the Virginia Tech Foundation to sponsor a Center of Excellence in Process System Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering. The goal of the Center is to promote industrial training and graduate education in process system engineering for optimizing process manufacturing. Y. A. Liu, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, directs the Center.

PetroChina, FORTUNE's global top three corporation in terms of revenues in 2016, is the number one oil company in the world. AspenTech is the world's leading supplier of software that optimizes process manufacturing. The world’s leading oil and gas, chemical, engineering and construction, pharmaceutical, food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods companies all rely on AspenTech software to run their business.

The process system engineering team in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech has a successful record of accomplishments in helping with technology development and engineering training for large global corporations such as Honeywell Specialty Materials and Technologies, Formosa Petrochemical Corporation, and China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC). Over the past 20 years, Professor Liu and his graduate students have trained over 7,000 practicing engineers in the U.S., Taiwan and China to use advanced software tools to minimize costs and maximize profits in petrochemical operations. They have also published five pioneering textbooks in process system engineering that help with intelligent manufacturing, energy and water savings, and simulation and optimization of polymer plants and petroleum refineries.

Department of Chemical Engineering

NIH grant on novel genomic technology development to Chang Lu

Chang Lu

Sept 23, 2016

Dr. Chang Lu received a 3-year NIH grant with a total of $603,857 to develop advanced microfluidic tools to map epigenomes. The project is titled "Ultrasensitive microfluidic ChIP-MethylC-seq for integrative analysis of histone modification and DNA methylation". Lu will develop devices and protocols that allow mapping genome-wide interactions of histone modifications and DNA methylations with a tiny quantity of DNA. Such tools will generate biological insights into the molecular machinery that regulates gene activities during normal development and disease processes. In this project, Lu is particularly interested in studying cell-type specific epigenomic features in neurons and glia and how they are involved in brain development and functions.

The project is a part of NIH National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) program on "Novel Genomic Technology Development".

Department of Chemical Engineering

Gary Whiting named Joseph H. Collie Professor

Dr. Gary Whiting

Gary Whiting, professor of practice of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, was recently awarded the Joseph H. Collie Professorship of Chemical Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Joseph H. Collie Endowed Chaired Professorship is awarded to a distinguished visiting professor who has extensive industrial experience and expertise in production, marketing, and sales of chemical products to introduce chemical engineering students to advanced business and marketing concepts in chemicals distribution management.

Whiting joined the Virginia Tech faculty earlier this year following his retirement from DuPont in 2015. He brought to the university significant experience in marketing, new business development, process and product development, and project engineering.

Whiting received his bachelor's degree from Lebanon Valley College, and a master and Ph.D. degrees from Virginia Tech.

Complete article

Department of Chemical Engineering

Chang Lu, Fred W. Bull professor of Chemical Engineering, is an IChemE Global Award 2016 finalist

Chang Lu

Chang Lu, Fred W. Bull professor of Chemical Engineering, is an IChemE Global Award 2016 finalist. His project, Ultrasensitive microfluids technology for profiling epigenomes, entered the final stage for the Biotechnology Award. Dr. Lu is invited to attend the IChemE Global Awards 2016 at The Palace Hotel, Manchester, UK on Thursday, 3 November where the winner will be announced. As indicated on their website,
"The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) is the global professional membership organisation for chemical engineering professionals and anyone involved with the process industries, including the emerging bioprocess sector."

The organization has "over 44,000 members in over 120 countries".

Department of Chemical Engineering

Patent Issued to Whiting

Dr. Gary Whiting (top right), Hilary Whiting (bottom right)

Professor Gary Whiting (’85 PhD-ChE) and his daughter, Hilary Whiting (’13 ME), are co-inventors of a recent U.S. Patent 9,387,756 issued July 12, 2016. The patent entitled "Vehicle Hybrid Drive Arrangement" documents inventions completed in conjunction with their designing and building a hybrid electric Chevrolet Corvette, QHP770. The patent is assigned to Dr. Whiting’s business, Quanta Products LLC, and specifically to Quanta Hybrid Performance. Hilary Whiting graduated from Virginia Tech’s mechanical engineering department in 2013, works for Kollmorgen in Radford, VA, and is currently pursuing her MBA at Arizona State University. Quanta Products will be a sponsor of Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Lu named Fred Bull Professor

Chang Lu

Professor Chang Lu has been appointed the Fred W. Bull Professor of Chemical Engineering by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. The professorship was funded through alumni donations to honor the many contributions to chemical engineering education of the late Professor Fred W. Bull, the second head of the chemical engineering department.

A 2008 NSF CAREER award winner, Lu joined the Virginia Tech community in 2010 from Purdue University where he was an Associate Professor. He is internationally known for his research on microfluidic biotechnology, using fluid engineering principles and physical sciences to create enabling tools and techniques for studying and manipulating cell and molecular biology. He is working to commercialize his technologies, and the University has filed 4 patents based on the research in his group. He is currently working with two companies to develop the epigenomic profiling technology toward commercial use.

Complete article

Department of Chemical Engineering

Karim and Xin receive an Army Research Office grant to develop efficient catalysts for low temperature oxidation

Professors Ayman Karim and Hongliang Xin

Professor Karim and Professor Xin have been awarded a $390,000 grant from the Army Research Office to develop supported single atom catalysts for low temperature oxidation. Low temperature catalytic oxidation is important for many applications including, pollution abatement (e.g. oxidation of CO and unburned fuel in car exhausts), indoor air quality control (e.g. oxidation of volatile organic compounds such as HCHO, benzene), as well as for breaking down chemical warfare agents (e.g. in personal protection systems for first responders in the case of a chemical weapon attack). The PIs aim to decouple the effects of metal nuclearity and electronic properties on reaction mechanisms to identify quantitative descriptors for the catalyst activity to allow the design of more efficient catalysts. The research is based on combining experiments and theory using a novel class of precious metal single-atoms and subnanometer clusters supported on metal oxides.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Xin received the NACS Travel Award to present an invited talk in 16th International Congress on Catalysis, Beijing, China

Hongliang Xin

Prof. Xin was selected as one of the 10 awardees to receive the North American Catalysis Society Travel Award for attending the 16th International Congress on Catalysis in Beijing, China. Dr. Xin will deliver an invited talk on the machine-learning approach for catalyst discovery. The blueprint for applying the approach in CO2 electrocatalyst design has been highlighted in two recent publications (X. Ma, et al. Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 2015, and Z. Li, et al., Catalysis Today, 2016). This collaborative research with Dr. Luke Achenie has recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation's Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) Division, aiming to develop a holistic framework for accelerating catalyst discovery.

We gratefully acknowledge the North American Catalysis Society for providing supplemental funding for support of attendance at the 16th International Congress on Catalysis to be held in Beijing, China, July 3-8, 2016. Funding for this program has been provided by federal agencies (NSF, DOE) and industry (ExxonMobil, UOP).

Department of Chemical Engineering

ChE Undergraduates Participate in Deloitte National Case Competition


In April 2016, a team of Virginia Tech undergraduates participated in the Deloitte National Case Competition. The Virginia Tech team was comprised of James Lavinder (Chemical Engineering), Peter Gula (Chemical Engineering), Cal Wontrop (Finance and Accounting), and Thomas Arruda (Finance and Accounting). The Virginia Tech team, the only team with two engineers, was first runner up and excelled due to their diversity of academic backgrounds.

The Deloitte R.I.S.E. National Case Competition provides students the opportunity to showcase their abilities and gain experience solving real problems faced by real world clients. Participants work in teams to analyze the case, interact with Deloitte professionals, and present their solution to a panel of judges both in written and oral form. This specific competition focuses on risk-based advisory services. Upon winning one's regional competition, teams are hosted at Deloitte University for the national competition. The competing schools were selected from Deloitte's recruiting campuses: Bentley University, Fordham University, California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo, Michigan State University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Texas at Austin, and Virginia Tech.

Department of Chemical Engineering: ChE-car

The Chemical Engineering Chem-E-Car team places third in the Chem-E-Car competition at the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Conference

ChE Car 2016 Team

The Virginia Tech Chem-E-Car team placed third in the Chem-E-Car competition at the 2016 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Conference in Newark, Delaware on April 9. This was the team’s fourth consecutive top three performance in regional competition, this year competing against twenty eight other cars. The team now advances to the national competition to be held in San Francisco this November.

The Chem-E-Car competition tests a team's ability to design and construct a shoe-box sized car that is powered by a chemical energy source that safely carries a specified load over a given distance and stops by direct control of a chemical reaction. Virginia Tech's team consists of two seniors: team leader Tyler Reif (Reston, VA), and Yining Hao (Chengdu, China); and four juniors: Bobby Hollingsworth (Springfield, VA), Courtner Clark (Leesburg, VA), Rebecca Engler (Hockessin, Delaware), and Olivia Fischer (Fairfax, Virginia). Their faculty advisors are Dr. David Cox, Professor and Department Head of Chemical Engineering and Dr. Stephen Martin, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering.

After placing highly at previous national and regional competitions, the Hokies decided to design a completely new vehicle this year. The Virginia Tech team utilized a lead acid-based battery that powered the vehicle, and implemented on-board computer control to manage the vehicle systems and monitor a novel cinnamaldehyde-based chemical reaction to stop the car.

The team gratefully acknowledges the support of VT alumnus Steve Cope who provided funding for the project, and the generous support of staff in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Professor Stephen Martin received a Dean's Award for Outstanding Service.

Dean Richard Benson and Dr. Stephen Martin

Department of Chemical Engineering

Durrill wins Wine Award for Teaching Excellence

Preston Durrill

Dr. Preston Durrill, undergraduate advisor and adjunct professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, has received the university’s 2016 William E. Wine Award for Teaching Excellence. Durrill has been active in the Chemical Engineering Department since 1983 when he began as an instructor for the summer unit operations laboratory, CHE 4014. In 2004, after retiring from the Chemistry Department at Radford University, he began teaching the introductory course in for chemical engineering sophomores, ChE 2114 Mass and Energy Balances, and serving as an undergraduate academic advisor. That same year, Durrill also began teaching Chem 1035 and 1036 General Chemistry I and II to hundreds of freshmen in the Department of Chemistry.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to Preston for his dedication and outstanding service to our student body and department.

Department of Chemical Engineering: Erdogan Kiran

Dr. Erdogan Kiran will deliver the opening Plenary Lecture at the 15th European Meeting on Supercritical Fluids

Professor Erdogan Kiran

Dr. Erdogan Kiran, Professor of Chemical Engineering and former Department Head will be delivering the opening Plenary Lecture at the 15th European Meeting on Supercritical Fluids (EMSF 2016) which will be held in Essen, Germany during May 8-11, 2016. Dr. Kiran is an internationally recognized expert on supercritical fluids and their applications for polymer modifications. His current research is funded by NSF and Industrial organizations. His talk is entitled “Current Trends in Supercritical Fluid Science and Technology and Challenges for Future Advancements in Polymer Applications". He has also recently published a critical review article "Supercritical Fluids and Polymers - The year in review - 2014" which, even though just appearing in print in the April 2016 issue of the Journal of Supercritical Fluids, has been downloaded nearly 2000 times by researchers in the field.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Xin and Achenie receive a NSF grant from CBET Catalysis program to develop efficient electrocatalysts for converting CO2 to value-added chemicals and fuels

Professors Hongliang Xin and Luke Achenie

Professor Xin and Professor Achenie have received a $380,942 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) Division to develop novel multimetallic nanomaterials for the efficient electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) to value-added chemicals and fuels. This has the dual benefit of reducing the emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 and moving closer to a sustainable energy future based on a closed loop carbon cycle fueled by a combination of solar energy and electrochemical conversion processes. The PIs will bring together expertise of density functional theory calculations, ab initio molecular dynamics - aided by advanced machine-learning algorithms - to predict materials combinations that lower the over-potential for electrochemical reduction of CO2 to ethylene and ethanol. The research is based on a three-step approach that first unravels the active site and reaction mechanism of CO2 reduction on Cu nanostructures, then creates predictive models linking nanoparticle composition and structure to the surface reactivity by machine-learning models, and lastly, develops an integrated framework for accelerating catalyst discovery.

Department of Chemical Engineering

Engineering students participate in Service without Borders

Don Savacool (at left), a junior majoring in chemical engineering from Flemington, New Jersey, works with a Dhumba community member to collect information and measurements the Service Without Borders team will use to create designs for an irrigation system.

Service without Borders (SWB) is an interdisciplinary, student-led organization whose mission is to share the spirit of Virginia Tech's motto, UtProsim, locally and globally by providing assistance to communities in need. SWB projects engage students in real-world design, project management, construction, marketing, fund raising, and cultural experiences. In January 2016, a group of Virginia Tech students and professors traveled to Nepal to assess earthquake damage in the culturally Tibetan community of Dhumba.
In partnership with the Dhumba village leaders, the SWB team decided that rehabilitation of the village irrigation system would have the greatest effect on agricultural productivity and livelihoods in the community. Locally, Service without Borders is involved with projects in and around the Blacksburg community.
Please click on the link for more information about Service without Borders.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Virginia Tech Department of Chemical Engineering is to educate students to become outstanding chemical engineers who possess all of the skills necessary to excel in an advanced, global society; to conduct innovative and beneficial research while training students to be the researchers of the future; and to provide service and expertise to the chemical engineering profession and society.

Chemical Engineering Program Outcomes and Objectives

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