Kinetic modeling helps guide conversion of biomass towards a diverse array of valuable products (Broadbelt)Kinetic modeling helps guide conversion of biomass towards a diverse array of valuable products (Broadbelt)
Identifying wetlands that may be lost to agriculture for biofuel and bioproduct feedstock production using machine learning (Dunn)Identifying wetlands that may be lost to agriculture for biofuel and bioproduct feedstock production using machine learning (Dunn)
Nanoporous MOFs for clean fuel storage (Farha)Nanoporous MOFs for clean fuel storage (Farha)
SEM of Graphene Crumpled Balls for Micropollutant Adsorption (Gray)SEM of Graphene Crumpled Balls for Micropollutant Adsorption (Gray)
Metabolic mixology: cell-free systems accelerate biological design for the synthesis of sustainable chemicals. (Jewett)Metabolic mixology: cell-free systems accelerate biological design for the synthesis of sustainable chemicals. (Jewett)
Potential route for simultaneous catalytic decontamination and sanitization of water (Kung)Potential route for simultaneous catalytic decontamination and sanitization of water (Kung)
Julius Lucks analyzes water samples in Paradise, CA for metal contamination using cell-free synthetic biology sensorsJulius Lucks analyzes water samples in Paradise, CA for metal contamination using cell-free synthetic biology sensors
Waste Polymer Deconstruction (Marks)Waste Polymer Deconstruction (Marks)
Cantilever-free scanning probe lithography enables the massively parallel synthesis of nanoparticle libraries (Mirkin)Cantilever-free scanning probe lithography enables the massively parallel synthesis of nanoparticle libraries (Mirkin)
New catalysts and reaction schemes can turn wastes into useful chemicals (Notestein)New catalysts and reaction schemes can turn wastes into useful chemicals (Notestein)
Flow-assisted electrochemical system for seawater deionization (Richards)Flow-assisted electrochemical system for seawater deionization (Richards)
Electrocatalytic processes buffer intermittent renewable energy sources to sustainably produce fuels and chemicals (Seitz)Electrocatalytic processes buffer intermittent renewable energy sources to sustainably produce fuels and chemicals (Seitz)
Nanoporous materials can replace energy-intensive separation methods such as distillation (Snurr)Nanoporous materials can replace energy-intensive separation methods such as distillation (Snurr)
The challenges of engineering metabolism can be overcome by modeling and systems biology (Tyo/Broadbelt)The challenges of engineering metabolism can be overcome by modeling and systems biology (Tyo/Broadbelt)
Stable isotope-assisted metabolomics to elucidate mixed-carbon metabolism in soil Pseudomonas species (Aristilde)Stable isotope-assisted metabolomics to elucidate mixed-carbon metabolism in soil Pseudomonas species (Aristilde)

Research
  /  
Areas of Research
Sustainability and Energy

The existential challenges to society posed by climate change, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity will be exacerbated by population growth and the imperative to increase the quality of life for much of the world’s population. Chemical and biological engineers are uniquely prepared to address these challenges, for example, by developing environmentally friendly, energy-, water- and material-efficient materials and processes. Advanced technologies are required for climate change mitigation and adaptation. New and emerging materials and technologies can be designed to be inclusive and to minimize indirect adverse impacts on humans and the environment. The interconnection of sustainability and energy with health, food and water security, and economic opportunity shows that sustainability and energy impact all aspects of our lives. Experimental, theoretical, and computational research and analysis all contribute to sustainable and resilient designs and their implementation.

Faculty and Research Areas

The wide range of sustainability and energy research carried out in the department is illustrated by the faculty research thumbnails below:

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.

Jennifer Dunn

Research Associate Professor
Dir. of Research, Northwestern Argonne Institute
Assoc. Director, Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience

Life cycle and material flow analysis of emerging technologies, energy, bioeconomy, plastics, circular economy, water, batteries, AI for sustainability.

Omar Farha

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

The Farha group designs metal-organic framework-based catalysts and adsorbents to enable a more sustainable and energy efficient future.

Kimberly Gray

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

Photoactive materials for environmental applications, graphene-based adsorbents & PEC membranes for water treatment, nanotoxicity, green infrastructure

Michael Jewett

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

New routes to sustainable chemicals and bioproducts. A key focus is the identification of sets of enzymes to make targeted molecular transformations.

Harold Kung

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Catalysis and surface engineering to reduce natural resource degradation in chemicals and materials production, water remediation and energy conversion.

Jeffrey Lopez

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering (beginning September 1, 2021)

Design of new materials for energy storage applications, charge transport, reactions at electrochemical interfaces, automated experimentation

Julius Lucks

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Associate Chair of Chemical & Biological Engineering

Environmental monitoring with synthetic biology diagnostic technologies.

Tobin Marks

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

The Marks group has chemists and engineers working on waste polymer deconstruction and recycling, solar energy, and efficient hydrocarbon utilization.

William Miller

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Director, Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience

Environmental aspects of sustainability; ecosystem services provided by natural areas and green infrastructure; water storage and flood mitigation.

Chad Mirkin

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

Mirkin explores the enormous parameter space of polyelemental nanoparticles, identifying ones for fuel cells, solar energy, and light emission.

Justin Notestein

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Notestein group is interested in designing selective catalysts for important chemical reactions to reduce waste and energy demands.

Aaron Packman

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

Analysis and modeling of environmental transport processes; contaminant transport; waterborne disease transmission; urban sustainability and resilience

Jeffrey Richards

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Richards Lab designs advanced materials and processes to improve the performance of sustainable energy and water technologies.

George Schatz

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

The Schatz group uses electronic structure and molecular dynamics to study problems including metals recovery, active materials, and photocatalysis.

Linsey Seitz

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Electrocatalysis, in situ spectroscopy, dynamic 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

Nanoporous materials for sustainability and energy, CO2 capture, energy storage, energy-efficient separations, adsorption cooling, water harvesting.

John Torkelson

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

Advanced polymers for sustainability; polyurethane replacements with non-isocyanate-based polymers; reprocessable polymer networks for tire recycling

Danielle Tullman-Ercek

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

Using enzymes to degrade and upcycle plastics, producing biofuels and biochemicals from sustainable feedstocks, developing biodegradable materials.

Keith Tyo

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Director of Graduate Studies

Engineering cells and enzymes by improving biofuel and biochemical production efficiency, and by synthesizing new molecules.