Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame

2012 Distinguished Lectures


November 15 Ken Knappenberger, Florida State University
November 8 Douglas Gin, University of Colorado
October 12 Madan Bhasin, MATRIC
September 20 Judy Jeevarajan, NASA-Johnson Space Center
May 30 Peter B. Littlewood, Argonne National Laboratory
May 29 Tamal Banerjee, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India
May 1 Stephen Zitney, AVESTAR Center
March 28 Wes Jackson, The Land Institute
March 21and 22 William F. Banholzer, The Dow Chemical Company
March 20 Dr. Earl Saito, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
March 5, 6 and 7 Peidong Yang, University of California, Berkeley
February 20 Alak Bhattacharyya, UOP Honeywell
February 2 Randy J. Ellingson, The University of Toledo


Thur November 15, 2012
12:30 PM, 123 Nieuwland Science Hall
"Structure-dependent Optical Properties of Metal Nanostructures"

Ken Knappenberger
Assistant Professor, Florida State University

Abstract: Describing electron- and energy-transfer processes in nanoscale systems is critical not only for understanding fundamental energy redistribution mechanisms in nanoscopic media, but also for developing next-generation devices based on these technologies. Research in the Knappenberger group involves understanding these processes in nanoscale assemblies through development and implementation of novel optical spectroscopy techniques, including single-molecule and time-resolved methods. The resulting detailed chemical information will address critical issues in nanoscale chemical physics and single-molecule analytical chemistry and direct the assembly of carefully designed nanoscale architectures.


Thur November 8, 2012
4:00 PM, 123 Nieuwland Science Hall
"Design of New Ionic Liquid-based Polymer and Composite Materials for Separation and Transport Applications"
Douglas Gin

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Colorado

Abstract: The Gin research group is applying organic synthesis and molecular design to the construction of functional, nanostructured materials. The two primary elements in our research program are:

(1) Functional Nanostructured Polymer Materials Based on Liquid Crystal Building Blocks:
Functional liquid crystal monomer design; nanostructured polymer networks via monomer self-assembly; physical organic chemistry and materials science of nanostructured systems.

(2) New Ionic Materials and Polyelectrolyte Architectures Based on Room-Temperature Ionic Liquids (RTILs):
Design of RTILs with new functional properties; new ionic polymers and composites based on RTILs; new RTIL-based lyotropic and thermotropic LC systems; gas separation and transport studies on new RTIL-based material.



Fri October 12, 2012
3:00 PM, 123 Nieuwland Science Hall
"High Selectivity Methane Coupling at High Pressure Using Novel, Defect/Disordered Rare Earth Oxycarbonate Based Catalyst Systems"
Madan Bhasin

Chief Scientific Advisor
Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center (MATRIC)

Abstract:  Methane is an attactive raw material for producing ethylene and propylene because it is widely available and inexpensive compared to the natural gas liquids (ethane, propane, butane and higher hydrocarbons). However, supply of natural gas liquids have not kept pace with the demand for ethylene and propylene, hence more costly cracking processes that use naphtha from petroleum are being commercialized. Therefore, development of economical processes for manufacturing olefins and other hydrocarbons from methane is highly desirable.

Oxidative coupling of methane was first discovered by Keller and Bhasin the the 1970s and first reported in 1982. The field of oxidative coupling exploded exponentially in the 1980s and early 90s. A vast majority of these 1500+ publications and patents attempted such oxidative coupling at one-atmosphere pressure and 750-850 degrees C over a variety of catalysts spanning most of the periodic table. Primary focus was on increasing conversion and selectivity or yield of C2+ hydrocarbons at one atmospheric pressure. Few attempts were made to accomplish methane coupling at higher pressure since higher pressure are necessary for a commercially viable process, however, selectivity dropped sharply at pressures of 5+ atmospheres.

Several series of non-stoichiometric, rare earth oxycarbonates based catalyst systems have been discovered that provide, for the first time, 70+% selectivity to C2+ hydrocarbons at 125+ psig pressure and 450-600 degrees C in microreactors that are stable for ~30 days. These novel catalyst systems are characterized as having non-stoichiometric, defect/disordered surface structure - as determined by various atomic level resolution techniques. Major challenges still remain to scale-up of catalyst, improved aging and a viable process scheme.

Bio: Dr. Bhasin is the CEO of Innovative Catalytic Solutions, LLC and a Chief Scientific Advisor with Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center (MATRIC). He has received numerous awards and professional recognitions throughout his career, including his election to the American Chemical Society (2009) and the U.S. National Academy of Engineers (2006). Dr. Bhasin received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1963 from the University of Notre Dame.

Sponsored by the Department of Chemistry and cSEND.


Thur September 20, 2012
11:00 AM, Radiation Laboratory Auditorium
"Energy Goals and Challenges for Future Space Exploration"
Judy Jeevarajan

Group Lead for Battery Safety and Advanced Technology
NASA-Johnson Space Center
Slide Presentation

Abstract: Energy storage (batteries) and conversion systems (fuel cells) have been used as main power sources for space vehicles and satellite systems for a few decades. With the advent of lithium-ion systems in the commercial market for portable electronic equipment, space vehicles and electric vehicles for ground transportation have turned towards the use of this battery chemistry due to their very high energy as well as power density.  The energy density of these systems have been improving steadily in the past two decades and with this increase comes the challenge of safety especially those associated with their use in human-rated space systems.  Space systems have a greater challenge of requiring higher energy and/or power in a smaller volume and lower mass.  In this presentation, the challenges faced by NASA in achieving the power goals for future exploration missions will be presented.

Bio: Dr. Judith Jeevarajan has worked on-site at NASA-Johnson Space Center since 1998.  She is currently the Group Lead for Battery Safety and Advanced Technology at NASA-JSC.  Before becoming a civil servant at NASA in 2003, she worked for Lockheed Martin Space Operations. She has a M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Notre Dame (’91), and she graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemistry (Electrochemistry) from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 1995. Dr. Jeevarajan worked for a small business company in College Station, TX for a year immediately after completion of graduate work.  Following this, she worked for a year as a post-doctoral fellow at Texas A&M University on NASA projects, which was immediately followed by her joining Lockheed Martin Space Operations in Houston. She has more than 15 years of battery experience with her main focus being li-ion cell and battery research. Dr. Jeevarajan represents the battery group at all the NASA safety panels, which involves working with the International Partners. Dr. Jeevarajan serves in the Technical Working Group for standards organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories and IEC/ANSI and is currently leading an effort for NASA under AIAA to write a space safety standard for battery systems. She has more than 60 presentations at conferences and has won numerous NASA awards, the most recent of them being the Exceptional Service NASA award. Dr. Jeevarajan and her husband, Antony, reside in Houston and have three children.

Sponsored by the Department of Chemistry, Radiation Laboratory, and cSEND.



Wed May 30, 2012
4:00PM, 118 Nieuwland Science Hall
"Polariton Condensation"

Peter B. Littlewood
Associate Laboratory Director for Physical Sciences and Engineering
U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory
James Franck Institute, University of Chicago
Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge

Abstract:  Macroscopic phase coherence is one of the most remarkable manifestaions of quantum mechanics, yet it seems to be the inevitable ground state of interacting many-body systems. In the last two decades, the familiar examples of superfluid He and conventional superconductors have been joined by exotic and high temperature superconductors, ultra-cold atomic gases, both bosonic and fermionic, and recently systems of excitons, magnons, and exciton-photon superpositions called polaritons, the subject of this talk.

Engineering of optical microcavities make use of the mixing of electronic excitations with photons to create a composite boson called a polariton that has a very light mass, and recent experiments provide good evidence for a high-temperature Bose condensate. Polariton systems also offer an opportunity to use optical pumping to study quantum dynamics of a many body system outside equilibrium, in a new kind of cold atom laboratory.

All interested individuals are invited to attend.

Sponsored by the Department of Physics and cSEND



Tue May 29, 2012
3:30PM, 116 DeBartolo Hall
"Phase Equilibria Prediction in Ionic Liquid Systems using Quantum Chemical based COSMO-RS Approach"

Tamal Banerjee
Department of Chemical Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati
Guwahati, India

Abstract:  In this talk, Dr. Banerjee will introduce the theoretical aspects of COSMO-RS (Conductor like Screening Model for Real Solvents) model. In this model, quantum mechanical COSMO calculations are performed to obtain the screening charges for molecules in a perfect conductor. A statistical mechanical model that considers molecules to be a collection of surface segments is developed for the calculation of segment activity coefficients using these screening charges. Activity coefficients for molecules are then obtained by summing the contributions of the segments. This model requires only a single radius for each atom in the COSMO solvation calculations, one universal parameter to separate hydrogen-bond acceptors and donors, and two universal parameters to determine segment interactions. This is a significantly fewer number of parameters for phase equilibrium calculations than group contribution methods such as UNIFAC. The applicability of the COSMO-RS will then be discussed for Ionic Liquid mixtures with respect to Vapor Liquid Equilibria, Liquid Liquid Equilbria and Solid Liquid Equilibria predictions. The predictive power for Vapor Liquid Liquid Equilibria and Octanol-Water partitioning coefficients will also be presented.

Bio:  Dr. Banerjee earned his PhD degree from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in the year 2006. Subsequently, he joined the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He has published over 30 papers in reputed peer reviewed Journals. He was awarded the Indo-US Fellowship in Engineering Sciences in 2011 and presently the Associate Editor of the International Journal of Biotechnology, Chemical and Environmental Engineering (IJBCEE). He is currently a Visiting Faculty at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware. His interest primarily lies in the Phase Equilibria Properties of Ionic Liquid systems.

Sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and cSEND.


Tues May 1
3:30 pm, 155 DeBartolo Hall
"AVESTAR Center for Operational Excellence of Clean Energy Plants"

Stephen Zitney
Director, AVESTAR Center
Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training and Research
U.S. Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory
Morgantown, WV

Abstract: To address challenges in attaining operational excellence for clean energy plants, the U.S.
Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has
launched a world-class facility for Advanced Virtual Energy Simulation Training and
Research (AVESTARTM). The AVESTAR Center brings together state-of-the-art, realtime,
high-fidelity dynamic simulators with operator training systems (OTSs) and 3D
virtual immersive training systems (ITSs) into an integrated energy plant and control
room environment. This presentation will highlight the AVESTARTM Center simulators,
facilities, and comprehensive training, education, and research programs focused on the
operation and control of high-efficiency, near-zero-emission energy plants.



Wed Mar 28,
7:00 pm, 101 Jordan Hall of Science
"Why Agriculture Must Take the Lead Toward a Sustainable Future"

Wes Jackson
The Land Institute

Wes Jackson hails from Topeka, Kansas. He graduated from Kansas Wesleyan (B.A. Biology, 1958), University of Kansas (M.A. Botany, 1960), and North Carolina State University (Ph.D. Genetics, 1967). He became a professor at Kansas Wesleyan and later established the Environmental Studies department at California State University, Sacramento. In 1976, he returned to Kansas and founded The Land Institute, which focuses on agricultural research.

Dr. Jackson is a prolific writer and has been featured in popular media including The Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, Time Magazine and NPR's "All Things Considered."

All are welcome to attend a reception after the presentation in the Jordan Hall Reading Room.

This is the First Annual Lecturer in Sustainability, sponsored by the College of Science, Henkels Lecturer Series, Institute for Scholarship in Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Letters, Department of Anthropology, Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, IUSB Center for a Sustainable Future, Notre Dame Office of Sustainability, and the Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame (cSEND).



Wednesday, March 21
5:00 pm, 141 DeBartolo Hall
"The Future of Fuels and Alternative Feedstocks – Recognizing Hype vs. Practical Limitations"

William F. Banholzer
Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
The Dow Chemical Company

Abstract: The world aspires for sources of energy and product feedstocks that are 100% sustainable in adequate amounts to support a high standard of living for all. The question is whether these goals are practical. Which new pathways and technologies will emerge to transform our situation? This question is addressed from the perspective of the chemical industry, which was built on oil, natural gas, and coal. These have served as the major raw material feedstocks and energy sources for driving reactions and separations. The industry is exploring new materials and solutions for energy supply and conversion. Here we consider the mass and energy balances, capital investment and resource requirements of several key alternative energy and feedstock technologies. These considerations determine where we can expect realistic progress toward sustainable chemistry in both the short and long term, and where we should place our investments.

Thursday, March 22
3:30 pm, 141 DeBartolo Hall
"The Challenge of Taking a New Idea into a Commercial Business"

William F. Banholzer
Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer
The Dow Chemical Company

Abstract: The creation of a financially successful product or process from an inventive idea is quite complex. In this talk, the challenge of managing Dow’s $1.7B R&D budget, including project selection, risk management and portfolio optimization, will be addressed. The DOW POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle ( ) is a case study that illustrates the multitude of decisions required to commercialize a new energy product. Managing the technical, market and supply chain risks and working with government and industry programs and codes are among the topics that will be discussed.

Sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and cSEND.



Tuesday, March 20
7:00 pm, 101 Jordan Hall

"Future of Nuclear Power, Passive Safety"
Earl Saito
Emerging Technologies, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Abstract: Nuclear power has provided safe and reliable electricity to the United
States and the world for the last 40 years. In 2010, the 104 operating nuclear
power facilities in the US produced 807 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.
This is enough power for 800,000 years of football at Notre Dame's Stadium. As nuclear power plants have evolved successive plants have improved safety and efficiency. The most recent US reactor designs, known as Generation III+ such as GEH ESBWR and Westinghouse AP1000®, use
passive safety to provide for safe operation and shut down under a wide variety of circumstances. Future reactors, Generation IV, such as GEH’s PRISM technology continue the use passive systems to assure that plants remain safe in operation and during shut down.

Bio: Dr. Earl Saito is Manager of Emerging Technologies for GE Hitachi. In this role, he is responsible projects including production of radio isotopes using commercial reactors, study of advanced fuels and studies of potential use of weapons grade MOX fuel in BWRs. Previous to his current role Earl was responsible for GEHs development of the Advanced Recycling Center (ARC). Dr. Saito has held several leadership positions in his career including responsibility for the safe and efficient production of nuclear fuel, shipping of multiple isotopes, process improvement, regulatory compliance and quality assurance.

Sponsored by cSEND.


Monday, March 5
"Nanowires Photonics & Single Cell Endoscopy"
Tuesday, March 6
Nanowire Thermoelectrics: Turning Waste Heat into Power"
Wednesday, March 7

"Artificial Photosynthesis: Challenges & Opportunities"
Peidong Yang
                              Faculty Scientist
                              Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering,
                              University of California, Berkeley

Bio: Peidong Yang received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1993 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard University in 1997. He did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara before joining the faculty in the department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1999. He is currently a professor in the Department of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and a senior faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is the department head, North Site Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) at LBNL. He is the deputy director for the Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems. He is an associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society and also serves on editorial advisory boards for a number of journals including Acct. Chem. Res. and Nano. Lett. He was the founder of the Nanoscience subdivision within the American Chemical Society. He has co-founded two startups, Nanosys Inc. and Alphabet Energy Inc. He is the recipient of Baekeland Medal, Alfred P. Sloan research fellowship, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator Award, National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, MRS Young Investigator Award, Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics, ACS Pure Chemistry Award, and Alan T. Waterman Award. He was recently elected as an MRS Fellow. His main research interest is in the area of one dimensional semiconductor nanostructures and their applications in nanophotonics and energy conversion.



Monday, February 20
4:00 p.m., 126 DeBartolo Hall
"From Black Oil to Silver Oil: Slurry Hydrocracking of Heavy Oil"

Alak Bhattacharyya
Research and Development Fellow

Abstract:  An increasing portion of the world’s oil reserves consist of heavy oil that produces low yields of useful products when processed with existing coking technologies.  In the UOP UniflexTM process, the coke yield is lower and the product yield is higher.  Here the catalyst, a non-stoichiometric, crystalline ferrous sulfide, is formed in-situ from ferrous sulfate.  Although molybdenum catalysts have a stronger hydrogenation function than iron, molybdenum is expensive and cannot be used as a disposable catalyst.  UOP Research has evaluated numerous alternative catalysts and identified a superior Fe/Al/O catalyst, which forms nano-crystallites of the active sulfide form, as the preferred one.  The activity, selectivity, and the stability of a catalyst depend on the various physical and chemical properties of the intermediate ferrous sulfide. This presentation will discuss the factors that show the superiority of the Fe/Al/O nano-catalysts for slurry hydrocracking of heavy oil.

Bio:  Alak Bhattacharyya, an R&D Fellow, has been with UOP/Honeywell for a total of about ten years and has led teams and groups working with refinery SOx and NOx control, heavy oil slurry hydrocracking catalyst development, hot gas desulfurization, green jet fuel development, FCC dry gas ethylene utilization, and breakthrough ionic liquid applications. Currently, Alak leads several ionic liquid projects related to catalysis, solvent extraction of fuel pollutants, and solvent for oxidation reactions. Previously, Alak spent 18 years with Amoco and BP and was involved with discovery and commercialization of several novel technologies in the areas of terephthalic acid and butanediol.  Alak published more than 40 research articles and over 85 U.S. Patents, granted and pending. 

Throughout his career, Alak received numerous internal and external awards including Honeywell Excellence in Innovation awards, 2009 and 2011, BP Breakthrough (1999) and Helios (2003) awards, and Herman Pines award (2004) from the Catalysis Club of Chicago.

Sponsored by cSEND.



Thursday, February 2
7:00 p.m., 129 DeBartolo Hall
"Energy for You, Me, and 7 Billion Other People"

Randy J. Ellingson
Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Faculty Member of the Wright Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization
The University of Toledo
Slide Presentation

Abstract:  Humanity now faces a sustained energy crisis, unlike any other in the past, that will play out over the coming decades and remainder of the century. Our current energy production and consumption patterns result in environmental stress and damage on local, regional, and global scales – in ways that clearly affect people’s “quality of life” but which are excluded from the methods used by economists and governments to describe progress (e.g., “standard of living”). As we recognize the implications of both the supply and utilization aspects of fossil energy sources, we are gradually focusing on the technology necessary to ramp up the supply of carbon-free "alternative" energy sources – to eventually replace the carbon-based (fossil) fuels that have dominated our supply for the past 100 years and today make up 87% of global energy consumption. Extrapolating the average growth rate (2.0%) in global energy consumption for the period 1998-2010 to the year 2050, we will need 35 TW of power in 2050 -- or almost three times as much as we used in 1998 (and 2.2 times what we used in 2010). This talk will discuss the status of our atmospheric CO2 level, fossil energy sources, non-fossil energy sources including hydroelectric, nuclear, geothermal, wind, and solar, environmental benefits and detriments of various sources, and the implications of externalizing supply and utilization costs for competing sources of energy.

Sponsored by the Department of Chemistry and cSEND.