ENGINEERING NEWS

Randy Snurr Receives AIChE Award

Randy Snurr, professor of chemical and biological engineering, has been selected by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Board of Directors to receive the 2011 Institute Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology.

The award recognizes an individual's sustained excellence in contributing to the advancement of technology in the production, distribution and application of industrial gases. Snurr will receive the award at the AIChE’s annual meeting in October.

Snurr’s research focuses on the development of nanoporous materials to solve environmental and energy problems. Specific areas of interest include diffusion in nanoporous materials, adsorption thermodynamics, development of new adsorbents and catalysts, separations, and molecular modeling.

Last year, Snurr was part of a team that created a new metal-organic framework (MOF) that has the highest surface area per unit mass – or highest amount of space able to store energy – ever produced. The MOFs are similar to Tinker Toys – they have corners made up of metallic ions and organic “linkers” in between to create tiny three-dimensional scaffolds. Using such frameworks, researchers can vary the material that acts as the linker and make different shapes and structures – all of which are nearly empty inside. These materials show promise in everything from energy storage to sensors to drug delivery. Creating MOFs with a high surface area is important for applications like energy storage because energy molecules like to adsorb on the surface.

The MOF that Snurr and his collaborators created had a surface area of over 6,000 meters squared per gram. That is like having the area of a soccer field in something the weight of a paper clip. 

In addition, Snurr and his group study other nanoporous materials and are developing new materials to trap harmful molecules while allowing others to pass in applications such as capturing CO2 from flue gas and trapping hydrocarbon emissions from automotive exhaust.