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Recent News

Fall 2021


Energy System Group Members Zewei Chen, Yiru Li, Wasiu Peter Oladipupo, Edwin Rodriguez, Gary Sawyer, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript “Alternative ordering of process hierarchy for more efficient and cost-effective valorization of shale resources” was published in Cell Reports Physical Science.

Energy System Group Undergraduate Researcher Arsh Bhatia received OUR scholarship for 2021-2022 academic year. Congratulations Arsh!


Summer 2021


Separations Research Group Members Jose Adrian Chavez Velasco, Zewei Chen, Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty, Prof. Mohit Tawarmalani, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript “Energy-efficient membrane cascades for industrial separations” was published in Computer Aided Chemical Engineering.

Separations Research Group Members Tony Joseph Mathew, Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty, Prof. Mohit Tawarmalani, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript “A Simple Criterion for Feasibility of Heat Integration between Distillation Streams Based on Relative Volatilities” was published in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Separations Research Group Members Jose Adrian Chavez Velasco, Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty, Prof. Mohit Tawarmalani, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript “Optimal design of membrane cascades for gaseous and liquid mixtures via MINLP” was published in Journal of Membrane Science.

Separations Research Group member Tony Joseph Mathew successfully defended his thesis. Congratulations Tony!

Separations Research Group Members Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty, Jose Adrian Chavez Velasco, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript “Methods to Assess Numerous Distillation Schemes for Binary Mixtures” was published in Chemical Engineering Research and Design.


Spring 2021


Tony Joseph Mathew and Zewei Chen both gave oral presentations at the 2021 AIChE Spring Meeting

Solar Energy Research Group member Swapnil Dattatray Deshmukh received the Outstanding Research Award 2021 from the College of Engineering. Congratulations, Swapnil!

Separations Research Group Member Jose Adrian Chavez Velasco, Prof. Mohit Tawarmalani, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript “Systematic Analysis Reveals Thermal Separations Are Not Necessarily Most Energy Intensive” was published in Joule.


Fall 2020


Energy Systems Research Group member Zewei Chen received the Bill Murray Fellowship for 2020-21 academic year. Congratulations Zewei!


Separations Research Group members Tony Joseph Mathew, Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty, Prof. Mohit Tawarmalani, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript “Quickly Assess Distillation Columns” was published in Chemical Engineering Progress.


Solar Energy Research Group member Swapnil Deshmukh won the Second Place Award in the 2020 AIChE Graduate Student Award Competition in the Inorganic Chemistry Area. Congratulations Swapnil!


Separations Research Group member Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty successfully defended his thesis. Congratulations Radhakrishna!


Summer 2020


Tony Joseph Mathew received first place for his Oral Presentation in the Energy and Process Intensification & Biotechnology category, and won the Best Overall award, at the 29th Annual Symposium organized by Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Organization. Congratulations, Tony!


David Rokke received first place for his Oral Presentation in the Material Science category at the 29th Annual Symposium organized by Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Organization. Congratulations, David!


Solar Energy Research Group members David Rokke and Swapnil Deshmukh’s submissions to the 2020 Annual AIChE conference are accepted for an oral presentation and two Graduate Student Award Oral Presentations respectively.


Separations Research Group member Jose Adrian Chavez Velasco successfully defended his thesis. Congratulations Adrian!


Prof. Rakesh Agrawal and Separations Research Group Member Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty’s manuscript “Misconceptions about Efficiency and Maturity of Distillation” was published in AIChE Journal.


Separations Research Group member Radhakrishna Tumbalam Gooty is a winner of the 2020 AIChE Separations Division Graduate Student Research Award in the Distillation and Absorption area. Congratulations Radhakrishna!


Solar Energy Research Group member Swapnil Deshmukh is a winner of the best student paper award at the 47th IEEE PVSC. Congratulations Swapnil!


Separations Research Group member Zewei Chen, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript, “Classification and Comparison of Dividing Walls for Distillation Columns” was published in Processes.


Prof. Rakesh Agrawal is interviewed on the Purdue University College of Engineering’s podcast, “Sounds Like the Future” on Episode 08: Advancing Sustainability Across Disciplines. Prof. Agrawal discusses his research and interests centered around sustainability


Solar Energy Research Group members Swapnil Deshmukh, Kyle Weideman, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript, “Analyzing and Tuning the Chalcogen–Amine–Thiol Complexes for Tailoring of Chalcogenide Syntheses” was published in Inorganic Chemistry


Spring 2020


Solar Energy Research Group members Ryan Ellis, Jonathan Turnley, David Rokke, Jacob Fields, Essam Alruqobah, Swapnil Deshmukh, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript, “Hybrid Ligand Exchange of Cu(In,Ga)S2 Nanopartcles for Carbon Impurity Removal in Solution Processed Photovoltaics” was published in Chemistry of Materials


Solar Energy Research Group member Essam AlRuqobah’s and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal’s manuscript, “Potassium Treatments for Solution-Processed Cu(In,Ga)(S,Se)2 Solar Cells” was published in ACS Applied Energy Materials


Solar Energy Research Group member Joseph Andler successfully defended his thesis. Congratulations Joe!


Solar Energy Research Group members, Ryan Ellis and Swapnil Deshmukh’s submissions to IEEE’s 2020 PVSC conference were both selected for (now virtual) oral presentations


Solar Energy Research Group member, David Rokke, is accepted to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Hands on Photovoltaic Experience (HOPE) 2020 program, a week long on-site educational program with field experts at NREL


Group member Tony Mathew received the 2020 Estus H. and Vashti L. Magoon Award for Excellence in Teaching by the College of Engineering for his teaching assistantship of CHE660: Chemical Reaction Engineering during the Spring 2019 semester


Prof. Rakesh Agrawal and alumni Xianyi Hu are co-authors of a newly published book, “Sustainable Photovoltaics,” which is an overview of various research projects that were a part of the SERIIUS funding network


Group members Ryan Ellis, Swapnil Deshmukh, and Zewei Chen all receive $1000 travel grants from the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering for conference travel


Solar Energy Research Group members Ryan Ellis and Swapnil Deshmukh’s submissions to the 2020 Spring MRS conference are accepted for oral presentations


Fall 2019


Solar Energy Research Group member Ryan Ellis wins first place in the Electronics and Photonic Materials Graduate Student Awards Session at the 2019 AIChE Annual Meeting for his oral presentation. Congratulations, Ryan!


Prof. Agrawal is an invited panelist for the Meet the Innovators presentation and panel discussion at the 2019 AIChE Annual Meeting


Ryan Ellis, Kyle Weideman, Zewei Chen, Jose Adrian Chavez Velasco, Yiru Li, and Peter Oladipupo all give oral presentations at the 2019 AIChE Annual Meeting


Solar Energy Research Group members Swapnil Deshmukh,* Ryan Ellis,* David Rokke, Dwi Sutandar and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal publish a paper titled, “Versatile Colloidal Synthesis of Metal Chalcogenide Nanoparticles from Elemental Precursors using Amine-Thiol Chemistry” in Chemistry of Materials


Prof. Rakesh Agrawal is awarded the Phillip C. Wankat Graduate Teaching Award in Chemical Engineering recognizing his achievements as an instructor in graduate-level courses. Congratulations, Prof. Agrawal!


Prof. Rakesh Agrawal writes a “Behind the Paper” blog post for Nature Sustainability describing the motivation behind the recently published paper


Prof. Rakesh Agrawal and Prof. Mitch Tunistra write a second blog post on Medium discussing the concept of Aglectric Farming


Prof. Rakesh Agrawal and Prof. Mitch Tunistra write a blog post on Medium featuring the NRT team and their research along with the new Nature Sustainability publication


Group alumni Caleb Miskin and current group members Yiru Li, Ryan Ellis, and Prof. Rakesh Agrawal publish, “Sustainable co-production of food and solar power to relax land-use constraints” in Nature Sustainability


Energy Systems

Our Motivation

For the past century, the energy sector has been dominated by fossil resources. Concerns regarding limited availability of fossil resources and increasing emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), however, have grown interests for advancement and implementations of alternative renewable energy conversion process such as wind turbines, photovoltaic devices, and concentrated solar power plants. Among these alternatives, solar energy conversion processes are prominent as solar energy is the only energy source that can independently meet all human energy needs due to its abundance. Yet its intermittencies and land availability constraints pose as the grand challenges for solar conversion process and demand high conversion efficiency and synergistically integrated solutions.

Combined Solar Economy and Challenges

Research

Our group focuses on developing and optimizing novel systems/processes to provide the energy requirements in the desired forms (transportation fuel, fertilizer, chemicals, electricity, heating) using solar energy. The fact that fossil resources will be in place for another century is not ignored in our studies and transition solutions using renewable energy sources and fossil resources in tandem are also considered.

Research Areas

  • Baseload Power Cycles from Solar Energy: Power generation is among the fastest growing sector and accounts for major stationary source (~40%) of global CO2 emission. Photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar plants (CSPs) are the two main power generation processes from solar energy. Existing CSPs remain far from its thermodynamically achievable efficiency limit. We investigated solar thermal water power cycle and discovered opportunities by identifying exergy losses, analyzing different heat integration techniques, and possible amalgamation with other chemical processes.

Hydricity

  • High Density, Efficient, Grid-Level Energy Storage from Renewable Energy: Due to the intermittency of renewable energy, energy storage is indispensable for providing continuous power. The current use of non-hydro renewable energy source is limited to peak shaving instead of baseload applications. In order to provide GWh-level continuous power from renewable energy, high storage efficiency and low storage volume are highly desirable for an efficiency energy storage. Our research focuses on chemical-based energy storage cycles, such as carbon storage cycles (CSCs) and hydrogen water storage cycles, that convert solar energy into different forms of energy.
  • Biofuel Production from Biomass: Petroleum derived liquid hydrocarbons have been the predominant fuel for the transportation sector. Concerns in green house gas (GHG) emission and scarcity of petroleum resource pushed for advancement for fuel production from alternative carbon sources such as biomass. However, supply of sustainably available (SA) is limited and standalone biomass-derived liquid fuel production is relatively low (30-40%). We investigated opportunities to increase biomass carbon conversion to liquid fuel by using supplemental non-carbon energy, such as solar energy.

Augmented Process

  • Biomass Processing and Integrated Biorefineries: More than 90% of the commodity chemicals produced in US are derived from fossil resources. Fossil fuel usage for energy and chemical production is a large contributor to the generation of GHG emissions. Substitution of fossil resources with biomass is one of the most promising alternatives for GHG reduction because carbon is withdrawn from the atmosphere via photosynthesis during feedstock growth and then is released upon combustion. In a more general sense, a biorefinery is a processing facility or a cluster of processing facilities that transform biomass into various value-added chemicals and forms of energy. Determining processes for a biorefinery design has been limited to heuristic approach and the entire biomass conversion reaction system is not well understood. Our research in this area focuses on developing a holistic approach to identify, create, evaluate new production routes and integration opportunities.

Modelling Approach

  • Process Design, Synthesis, and Discovery: We pursue the systematic development of new processes which meet the specified performance criteria of maximize carbon efficiency, energy efficiency, and minimum cost or maximum profit. Our approaches are based on an optimization framework where discrete and continuous decisions are modeled explicitly and we also utilize process simulation software such as AspenPlus. Our research focuses on (i) simulation, design, synthesis,and optimization of novel reaction networks for processes converting biomass to commodity chemicals and transportation fuels, (ii) design and optimization of processes that convert solar thermal into electricity, hydrogen, clean water, and fertilizer.
  • Macroscopic Systems Analysis and Integration: The grand challenges of a solar economy are highly intertwined. Considering the varying constraints in land availability and renewable energy intermittent nature, it is inevitable that the energy landscape of the future will not be dominated by a single source. Therefore, in order to enable a sustainable economy, we pursue to fully understand and appreciate the integrated nature of various energy resources and processes. Our research focuses on systematic analysis of the energy landscape to determine the limitations of different energy resources and assess their impacts to the existing and future energy demands.
  • Mathematical Modelling, Computational Optimization, and Analytic: Modeling process synthesis and problems in reaction engineering result in mixed-integer linear and nonlinear optimization formulations. We have studied modeling issues in process superstructure, heat integration, and reactor based systems.

Recent Publications

Complete list of Energy Systems Analysis publications.
Complete list of publications.