U. researcher wins award for studies on alternative energy

Inspired by the need to reduce the United States’ dependency on foreign oil, Professor Alan Goldman has been working on converting carbon sources into liquid to use for fuel. 

The professor, who has worked in the University’s Department of Chemistry for 25 years, has won an award from the American Chemical Society Catalysis Lectureship for the Advancement of Catalytic Science for this work.

“Importing fossil fuel and burning it is a real double-edge sword,” Goldman said. “As a result of its geopolitical tensions, CO2 and poverty levels increase.”

Goldman was chosen as the recipient of the inaugural award for his research on a scientific process called alkane metathesis, a project Goldman said began six to seven years ago.

He said the project involves the conversion of any carbon source such as coal, gas, or biomass, to a liquid, giving the new converted material mixture of fuel-grade and non-fuel-grade alkanes a specific kind of hydrocarbon.

Alkane metathesis takes the non-fuel grade alkanes and converts them to an energy-efficient and clean-burning diesel fuel, he said.

Goldman said the idea to conduct his research on alkane metathesis came about in order to solve the problem that arises from countries who need to have oil.

Though the concept of the research belongs to Goldman, he said he had help over the years, mostly from graduate students, as well as undergraduates and several post-doctoral students. At any time, Goldman worked in the lab on this project with about 14 others.

Goldman said the graduate students, who are in the process of obtaining doctorate degrees are given a $25,000 annual stipend.

Goldman said he was rewarded with a plaque and a small monetary award at the Fall 2012 American Chemical Society National meeting. A symposium was also held in Goldman’s honor in Philadelphia, where a leading catalysis scientist presented their work.

“It’s really nice for a scientist to get recognized for their work,” he said. “That was really quite an honor.”

Founded in 1876 at the College of Pharmacy of the City of New York, the American Chemical Society is a society of chemists whose mission is to improve people’s lives through chemistry, according to the American Chemical Society website.

To honor the work of the chemists in the field of catalysis, the ACS decided to create this new award, said Charles Dismukes, a professor in the Department of Chemistry who is also conducting research in the catalysis field.

He said members of the society nominated chemists from all over the country, but a special committee of society members made the final decision to give Goldman the award.

Goldman said any material that one buys, whether it is plastic or fuel, uses catalysis somewhere down the line in the production chain.

“Catalysis is anything that makes a reaction go faster without being consumed into that reaction,” he said.

Kathryn Uhrich, dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University, said she is pleased Goldman’s work has been recognized.

“He’s one of the stars of our department,” Uhrich said. “It’s good that he’s getting the publicity that he deserves.”

Dismukes, who first learned of Goldman’s research four years ago after reading about it in a scientific newsletter, said he was not surprised when he heard about Goldman’s latest accomplishment.

“Alan is a highly decorated teacher and an inspirational one,” he said. “It came as no surprise to our colleagues.”

Uhrich said having a faculty member like Goldman, who has racked up 11 awards while working in the department, brings recognition to the University.

“Anytime any faculty member brings in an award it brings recognition to Rutgers,” Uhrich said. “It brings prestige.”


By Einzen Lespinasse

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