Emerging Leaders in Chemical Engineering

The organizing committee of the XXIX Interamerican Congress of Chemical Engineering Incorporating the 68th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference (CSChE 2018) is proud to announce a special plenary session, titled “Emerging Leaders in Chemical Engineering.”  

This prestigious session will recognize the contributions of four early-career researchers and highlight their vision and leadership in their respective field of chemical engineering.

Pedram Fatehi, Lakehead University

Jon ArnotBio: Dr. Pedram Fatehi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Lakehead University in Canada, and Distinguished Professor at Qilu University of Technology in China. A graduate of the Asian Institute of Technology and the University of New Brunswick, he is currently a Canada Research Chair (Tier II) and Industrial Research Chair in Green Chemicals and Processes. Since joining Lakehead University in 2011, Dr. Fatehi has successfully established the Green Processes Research Centre, developing an innovative, multidisciplinary research program in chemical engineering, chemistry, environmental engineering, biotechnology and forestry. His wide range of research contributions encompass many aspects of forest biorefinery, biomass conversion, polymer modification, colloid and surface/interface chemistry and wet-end applications of polymers and reagents in papermaking. He is currently collaborating with companies regionally and nationally. He is developing new processes based on his patent pending technologies in collaboration with Resolute Forest Product and FPInnovations.

Dr. Fatehi’s research has been published in more than 135 articles in academic journals such as Green Chemistry, Fuel Processing Technology, ChemSusChem, Separation and Purification Technology, Chemosphere, Biotechnology for Biofuels, Colloid and Surfaces A, Bioresource Technology, RSC Advances, ACS Sustainable Engineering and Chemistry and Langmuir, as well as four chapters in books published by ACS, InTech and Springer. Dr. Fatehi’s research excellence has been recognized with many awards, such as, the RBC Innovation Award in 2016, and the Ontario Centre of Excellence Early Researcher Award in 2014.

Abstract: Production and application of lignin based water soluble polymers: challenges and opportunities

Wood mainly consists of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. In the chemical pulping industry, cellulose and a part of hemicelluloses are converted to various pulp grades as main products. Emerging cellulosic ethanol plants also convert cellulose and hemicelluloses to ethanol as their main product. As a result, lignin has been regarded as an under-utilized by-product of the chemical pulping and cellulosic ethanol industries. To improve the financial profit of these processes and prevent a major loss of resources, value-added products could be produced from lignin. Recently, different processes were developed for generating lignin at commercial scales in an effort to facilitate the production of value-added products from lignin. For example, the LignoBoost and LignoForce technologies are commercial processes for producing kraft lignin, while TMPBio technology is employed for producing hydrolysis lignin in a cellulosic enzymatic process. Due to the commercial availability of lignin, extensive research has been conducted on producing altered lignin based value-added products via chemical, electrochemical, thermochemical and catalytic processes. However, efforts in producing value-added water soluble lignin-based products including dispersants and flocculants are mainly limited to the researches conducted by Dr. Fatehi in the past 7 years in Canada.

Dispersants and flocculants are water soluble chemicals with significant worldwide applications. Dispersants are widely used in the mining and oil industries and applied to reduce the interaction among oil, water and sands in order to facilitate the extraction of oil from oil sand reservoirs located in Alberta, for example. They could be used as stabilizers of mud in drilling of oil wells. In the same vein, they would be used in the flotation process of the mining industry to reduce the viscosity of pulp in order to have a better bobbling performance and ultimately higher recovery yield or be used in cement/concrete as water retarding agents. Flocculants are widely used in the mining industry for density control in thickeners, or as rheology modifiers in the concentrate thickeners for instance. Moreover, they are used in municipal and industrial wastewater systems worldwide. However, the commercial dispersants and flocculants are mainly oil-based, ineffective, expensive and/or non-biodegradable.

Lignin has a three-dimensional structure with several aliphatic and aromatic group attachments, which are beneficial for dispersant/flocculant productions. Lignin can be tailored to have diverse charge densities, molecular weights and degrees of hydrophilicity, all of which are of significant importance for dispersants/flocculants. After chemical modification for dispersant and flocculant production, lignin-based polymers will inherent some unique features from lignin (e.g. hydrophobicity and three-dimensional structure) that are not available in the currently used commercial flocculants/dispersants. The long-term objectives of Dr. Fatehi’s work are 1) to produce water soluble lignin-based chemicals as the new products for pulping processes and ethanol plants, and to 2) understand the fundamentals associated with the conversion of lignin to these products for altered systems.

It is well known that the chemistries and properties of wastewater effluents are different. For example, tailing pond effluents are full of inorganic solids; whereas, those of pulping wastewaters contain organic materials. Also, the chemistry of ore samples is mine/cite dependent; therefore, a dispersant or flocculant that is effective in one aqueous medium of solution/suspension may not be as effective in other ones. To produce lignin-based dispersants and flocculants, various reaction routes can be followed, which generate polymers with different properties. The performance of these polymers will be different in varied suspension and solution systems. In this presentation, Dr. Fatehi will elucidate fundamental challenges and opportunities in the 1) design of lignin-based water-soluble polymers, 2) interaction of these polymers with constituents of solution/suspensions and 3) development of processes for the production of lignin-based polymers at a large scale for industrial use. In addition, Dr. Fatehi will describe how the fundamentals of chemical engineering science are involved in the development and application of lignin-based flocculants and dispersants, and how his research outcomes would contribute to chemical engineering field of study as well as Canadian and international chemical industries.

Jeff Gostick, University of Waterloo

Terry BidlemanBio: Professor Jeff Gostick is an Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo.  His PhD work focused on transport phenomena in the porous electrodes in hydrogen fuel cells.  Upon completion of his PhD in 2009 he did post-doctoral work at with the US Department of Energy at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, performing ‘cat-scan’ on porous materials.  Prior to beginning his PhD, he worked as a Research Engineer at Teck Resources Inc. on the production of zinc powder and fiber for zinc-air flow batteries and medium-scale alkaline batteries.  He joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University in 2010, and moved to the University of Waterloo in 2017 where he runs the Porous Materials Engineering & Analysis Lab.  His current research continues to include fuel cell electrodes in collaboration with industrial partners, but has expanded to include all manner of engineered porous materials ranging from electrospun nanofiber webs for flow battery electrodes and tissue scaffolds, to nanoporous zeolite materials for carbon capture.  He is also a lead developer of the open source pore network modeling project OpenPNM (openpnm.org).

Abstract: A look inside (literally) advanced energy storage devices

The price of renewable energy is falling rapidly and the need to de-carbonize our energy supply is ramping urgently.  The time is ripe for a massive transition to a renewable energy economy.  However, the intermittency of wind and solar, or more specifically the mismatch between natural supply and consumer demand, means its simply not possible to reach 100% renewables without some form of energy storage as a buffer.  Many energy storage options are available, each suitable for different applications.  In this talk, I will given an overview of the leading and emerging options, when and where they are applicable, and take a deeper dive into a few of the more promising examples.  Specifically, the technique of x-ray computed tomography will be highlighted for its ability to capture 3D images of the internals of these highly engineered electrochemical devices in exquisite detail. Direct visualization of electrode structures helps to improve manufacturing processes, diagnose performance issues, and generally design more efficient devices.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a 3D tomogram is worth at least a million. 

Nashaat Nassar, University of Calgary

NassarBio: Dr. Nassar is associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Calgary, he leads a diverse research group of PhD and master’s students, as well as post-doctoral fellows and research associates. His diverse and highly productive research group focused on nanotechnology and its applications in the oil and gas industry, wastewater treatment, CO2 capture and conversion and natural gas conditioning.  In a short span of 4 years, he has established a world-leading, industrially-connected research laboratory that has attracted over $2.5 million in research funds, and he is currently working with several national and international oil and gas companies to commercialize his research. He is the recipient of serval awards and prizes; including the Early Research Excellence Award from the Schulich School of Engineering (2016), Outstanding Teaching Performance Award (trice), the Great Supervisor Award (2017), the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) Early Accomplishment Award (2018), and the Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Award (IDEA, 2018). Dr. Nassar has received several research grants from Canadian and international funding agencies as well as numerous industrial funding from the United States, Middle East and Mexico, and granting agencies and prestigious international engineering and technology publications routinely call him up for expert reviews. Dr. Nassar published more than 100 peer-reviewed technical papers, given more than 130 technical presentations, co-edited one book, filed a number of patents and trained and inspired more than 60 bright engineers, contributing his time and talent to students and to the engineering community. He also serves on several administrative committees at the University of Calgary, has served as an expert reviewer of several research grant proposals and peer-reviewed journals and acted as an associate editor for the journal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering published by Elsevier. Dr. Nassar is a professional member of APEGA, and he strongly believes that the health of our environment and the development of our technology go hand-in-hand.

Abstract - Nanoparticles: A New Technology With Wide Applications
Dr. Nassar’s research area is on nanotechnology with a specific focus on innovation of naturally-driven nanoparticle-based materials and processes. Discoveries made in his laboratory have a wide range of practical applications, including CO2 capture and conversion, heavy oil upgrading and recovery, oil spill clean-up, water remediation, wastewater treatment, treatment of mature fine tailings, natural gas conditioning and utilization of waste-heavy hydrocarbons, such as asphaltenes and petroleum coke. The state-of-the art approaches and technologies developed by Dr. Nassar’s team provide substantial benefits to industry and society in terms of process simplification, reduced cost, energy efficiency, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. His group studies the synthesis of naturally driven nanoparticles with different sizes, shape and surface functionalities. His group has studied in details different aspects of nanoparticle synthesis including several functionalization or grafting methods to customize their use in desired applications. The  dynamics of nanoparticle surfaces and its chemistry towards a specified reaction are investigated experimentally and   theoretically by carrying out computational modeling through molecular mechanics, density functional theory (DFT) calculations, and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, and then applies this knowledge to design active site nanostructures that enable new adsorptive or catalytic functions to be implemented in real application. His group’s work in synthesis and application of nanoparticles will provide viable clean alternative technologies for enhancing oil upgrading and recovery, solid waste conversion, wastewater treatment, CO2 capture and conversion and optimized natural gas processing.