Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis

The University of Iowa is one of four institutions participating in a five-year, $17 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC). The CEBC is headquartered at the University of Kansas (KU) with core partners in the University of Iowa , Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing (CBB), Washington University at St. Louis, and Prairie View A&M University. The CEBC is a multidisciplinary, multi-university research center. Its mission is to develop environmentally friendly and economically viable chemical processes for industry. Catalysts -- substances used to accelerate chemical reactions -- are used in the production of such things as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, food products and fuels.

Jack Rosazza, professor emeritus of medicinal and natural products chemistry in the UI College of Pharmacy, is associate director of the CEBC. The CEBC is a very complex grant, which aims to advance catalysis in order to improve the environment and improve the methods for the production of industrial chemicals. The aim is to optimize, develop and discover new catalysts and to improve a wide array of catalytic processes.

Research at the UI focuses on biocatalysis, an area of long-standing expertise at the CBB. Biocatalysts are catalysts derived from nature and include microbial enzymes and cells that may be used to transform abundant starting materials into useful chemical and nutritional products. UI projects will ultimately lead to improvements and expansion of the industrial use of biocatalysts. In addition to the focus on catalysis research, the CEBC also has a focus on education and training where we develop hands-on opportunities for undergraduates and graduates students, the next generation of engineers and scientists.

Unlike grants that fund research only, education and training also are major components of this project. This grant is enabling the CBB to enhance our existing and very strong education training programs and allows us to expand education opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students in this area of research.

CEBC administrators, in addition to Rosazza, include Director Bala Subramaniam, Ph.D., professor in the KU department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering; Deputy Director Daryle H. Busch, Ph.D., professor in the KU department of Chemistry; and Associate Director Milorad (Mike) Dudukovic, Ph.D., of Washington University in St. Louis. More than 37 faculty members at the four institutions are contributing research expertise, and the CEBC will employ about 26 persons, including undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, administrative and technical staff.

The four universities collectively will provide $2 million to the center, while some 15 major chemical companies are expected to join CEBC as industrial partners who will pay membership fees and will have the first opportunity to implement new CEBC technologies. Ultimately, CEBC plans to sustain itself with funding from industrial memberships and additional sponsors of research projects.

UI researchers participating in the center include Milind Deshpande, Ph.D., CBB research specialist; David Gibson, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology; Tim Mattes, Ph.D., assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Horacio Olivo, Ph.D., associate professor of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry; Tonya Peeples, Ph.D., associate professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering; Daniel Quinn, Ph.D., professor of Chemistry; S. Ramaswamy, Ph.D., associate professor of Biochemistry and Chemical and Biochemical Engineering; David Rethwisch, Ph.D., professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering; Jack Rosazza, emeritus professor of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry; Jerald Schnoor, Ph.D., Allen S. Henry Chair, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Rebecca Parales, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology at the University of California at Davis, also is part of the research team.

The grant is funded under the NSF Engineering Research Centers program, which aims to provide integrated environments for academe and industry to collaborate on advancing technology and knowledge of complex engineered systems important for the Nation's future. The ERCs advance knowledge and develop new technologies to transform U.S. industry. The centers foster collaboration among researchers from many disciplines and provide an educational and research environment that prepares a new generation of engineering leaders.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

To learn more about the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC), its mission and the people at its core, go to http://www.ku.edu/~cebc/