Microkinetic modeling sheds light on mechanisms for oligomerizing olefins (Broadbelt)Microkinetic modeling sheds light on mechanisms for oligomerizing olefins (Broadbelt)
Microporous metal-organic framework-supported Ir-catalyst transforms with high selectivity (Farha)Microporous metal-organic framework-supported Ir-catalyst transforms with high selectivity (Farha)
Engineering ribosomes offer opportunities for understanding & engineering biocatalytic systems for medicines & materials (Jewett)Engineering ribosomes offer opportunities for understanding & engineering biocatalytic systems for medicines & materials (Jewett)
From supported metals to hybrid materials, catalysts are designed for more sustainable chemistry (Kung)From supported metals to hybrid materials, catalysts are designed for more sustainable chemistry (Kung)
Single atom control gives insight into catalysis (Notestein)Single atom control gives insight into catalysis (Notestein)
Nanostructured catalysts are developed for selective catalytic reactions (Notestein)Nanostructured catalysts are developed for selective catalytic reactions (Notestein)
Electrocatalytic processes harness renewable electricity sources to drive sustainable production of fuels and chemicals (Seitz)Electrocatalytic processes harness renewable electricity sources to drive sustainable production of fuels and chemicals (Seitz)
Computational discovery of rules for selective oxidation (Snurr)Computational discovery of rules for selective oxidation (Snurr)
Catalyzed release of phosphate from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) on a ferrihydrite surface (Aristilde)Catalyzed release of phosphate from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) on a ferrihydrite surface (Aristilde)
Laser-induced CVD growth of SWNTs from metal nanoparticles on Si micropillars patterned using polymer pen lithography (Mirkin)Laser-induced CVD growth of SWNTs from metal nanoparticles on Si micropillars patterned using polymer pen lithography (Mirkin)
A quantum chemical model of Mo oxide on carbon sheds light onto its unique reactivity with ethanol. (Schatz)A quantum chemical model of Mo oxide on carbon sheds light onto its unique reactivity with ethanol. (Schatz)

Research
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Areas of Research
Catalysis and Reaction Engineering

Catalysis and Reaction Engineering

The discipline of Catalysis and Reaction Engineering (CRE) seeks to control and understand the networks of reactions that occur in ‘reactors’ ranging from cellular compartments up to world-scale industrial facilities, and includes reactions may be activated by heat, light, electrical, or chemical energy. Because of this broad remit, CRE is interested in intricate biochemical pathways, pollution remediation, and the production of anything from fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, to fuels, monomers, and polymers. CRE at Northwestern is highly interdisciplinary and often takes place in globally recognized, collaborative centers.

Research Areas

Our researchers study catalysts that may be small molecules, biological macromolecules, or solid materials, which harness light, electricity, or thermal energy as inputs. An important area of research is to understand how catalysts can work cooperatively or be arranged in space and time to carry out reactions with high selectivity or to synthesize molecules and materials with new properties. We also have strengths in the development of reactions for sustainable chemistry and in the modeling and synthesis of new catalysts and reaction environments, including engineered cellular environments, metal organic frameworks, single-site catalysts, and multicomponent oxides.

Faculty

Core

Linda Broadbelt

Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor
Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Associate Dean for Research

Novel computational approaches to address hurdles facing the biomass industry in the transition to more sustainable fuels, chemicals and materials.

Michael Jewett

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence

We are creating a new paradigm for understanding and engineering biocatalytic reaction systems using cell-free biology.

Harold Kung

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Develop understanding of molecule-surface interactions, reaction mechanisms, and synthesis methodology to enable catalysts by design for sustainability.

Tobin Marks

Vladimir N. Ipatieff Professor of Catalytic Chemistry and Chemical and Biological Engineering and (by courtesy) Materials Science and Engineering

Fundamentals of catalysis by atom-precise materials and designed organometallics with specific interests in polymerization/depolymerization and selective oxidation.

Justin Notestein

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Designing and interrogating all types of catalysts and catalytic processes, especially for large scale chemical processes and novel applications in sustainability.

Linsey Seitz

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Electrocatalysis, in situ spectroscopy, dynamic catalyst materials, and reactor design towards renewable production of fuels and chemicals.

Randall Snurr

Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering
John G. Searle Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Computational catalysis modeling, data science in catalysis, natural gas conversion, oxidation catalysis, catalytic destruction of toxic compounds.

John Torkelson

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering

Developing and tuning reactions for the synthesis and deconstruction of sustainable and recyclable/upcyclable polymers and composites.

Danielle Tullman-Ercek

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Director, Master of Science in Biotechnology Program

Coupling modeling and experiments to explore the impact of enzyme sequestration and organization on biochemical reaction performance.

Courtesy 

Ludmilla Arstilde

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

Probing the heterogeneous catalysis of nutrient recycling by natural mineral oxides by coupling spectroscopic analyses with molecular simulations.

Omar Farha

Associate Professor of Chemistry and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

Design and synthesis of catalysts supported on porous materials with atomically precise structures for energy-, environment- and national defense-related applications.

Kimberly Gray

Chair of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

Environmental catalysis, including synthesis of photo-active materials for resource recovery and water/air treatment, as well as the unintended ecotoxicological impacts of nanomaterials. 

Chad Mirkin

George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering and Biomedical Engineering

Mirkin develops nanomaterial megalibraries (>1 million features) for the high-throughput screening and discovery of energy-relevant catalysts.

Milan Mrksich

Vice President for Research
Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology

Studying and applying spatio-temporal organization in catalytic systems, including the use of microfluidic systems, patterned surfaces, and megamolecules for cascade reactions.

George Schatz

Professor of Chemistry and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Schatz group uses a density functional theory and molecular dynamics calculations to study catalytic reaction mechanisms.