Engineering Professor Secures Grant for Methane Adsorption

Dr. Dipendu Saha, assistant professor of chemical engineering in the School of Engineering, recently secured an Undergraduate New Investigator Research Grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund for his research on methane adsorption in micro-mesoporous carbons. Saha will receive a two-year grant for $55,000 to investigate the fundamental relations between thermodynamic characteristics of adsorbed methane and pore textural properties of the carbon.

The Petroleum Research Fund is an endowed fund, managed by the American Chemical Society that supports fundamental research directly related to petroleum or fossil fuels at nonprofit institutions. The fund also aims to develop the next generation of engineers and scientists through support of advanced scientific education, as this grant specifically is intended to initiate the research program of new scientists and engineers who are faculty members at undergraduate research institutions and to provide financial incentives for students at those institutions to become involved in research activities leading to employment or continued study in graduate school.

“The impact of this grant is very significant to the country-wide initiative to support the use of natural gas,” Saha said. “The knowledge gained on the project will be used to better the design of an on-board storage system in vehicles that are powered by natural gas as well as separation and enrichment of natural gas from the other hydrocarbon mixtures.”

According to Saha, methane, which is the key component of natural gas and a source of transportation fuel, provides the advantage of very low emission, larger reserves and indigenous sources. “This means the more natural gas we use the less we have to depend on foreign sources, like gasoline,” he said. “Natural gas is a much cleaner alternative to use.”

However, the issue lies in storing a large amount of methane on board a vehicle. Saha’s research takes a fundamental study in adsorption in nanoporous materials. In the adsorbed natural gas method methane is stored by adsorbing the individual molecules within the nanopores of the adsorbent, which in this case is carbon. Extreme confinement of molecules within this type of carbon can result in much higher storage density of adsorbed gas compared to that of compressive one under the same condition of temperature and pressure.

Over the next two years Saha will synthesize similar materials for adsorption and determine how pressure and temperatures affect them. He will also analyze transport perimeters, so that he can better understand the ‘host-guest’ interactions between adsorbed methane and carbon pores. “While this is not a new study, this research is unique because of the fundamental piece in examining the components and outlying effects of adsorption,” he said.

In the end, Saha hopes to find a fundamental correlation of the adsorb behavior of the carbon that will allow for a strong design for onboard storage as well as separation.  

Saha is entering his second year at Widener and is excited to start such a vigorous assignment. He is looking forward to collaborating with students on the research. “The results, will not only be a strong footing for me as an assistant professor, but also for Widener, as it will help establish more national and international collaborations,” he said.

Dr. Fred Akl, dean of the School of Engineering, agrees. “Dr. Saha’s research on methane adsorption is significant to the department of chemical engineering at Widener,” he said. “A grant of this caliber helps promote the innovative research that our faculty is immersed in.  This grant especially, supports our mission in advanced engineering education to give graduate and undergraduate students experiential learning opportunities with our faculty.”

Saha was previously a part of the Materials Science and Technology Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He received his doctorate in chemical engineering from New Mexico State University, where he studied the adsorption phenomena.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, the ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals, and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences and professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate's, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, PA, and Wilmington, DE, serve approximately 6,300 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free university. Visit the university's website, www.widener.edu, for more information.

 

###