Carnegie Mellon University's John Kitchin Earns Presidential Award for Energy Research
July 23, 2012
Contact: Chriss Swaney
Carnegie Mellon University
Contact: Dave Anna
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's John Kitchin has been awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to scientists and engineering professionals in the early stages of their careers.
Kitchin, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was nominated for the prestigious award by the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy for his research efforts in collaboration with the National Energy Technology Lab's Regional University Alliance (NETL-RUA), an alliance of five universities that conduct fully-integrated basic and applied energy and environmental research.
"I am honored to be selected as a PECASE recipient for our work in electrochemical oxygen separation. I am especially grateful to the NETL Regional University Alliance, who supported this work and who continue to provide a unique environment to develop CO2 capture enabling and clean energy technologies," Kitchin said.
In this work, Kitchin and his team developed an electrochemical separation method for separating oxygen from air at ambient pressure and temperature. Cheap, efficient oxygen production is critical for several clean energy and CO2 capture technologies of the future. Traditional air separation methods require extreme refrigeration to turn air into liquid that can be distilled, which is very energy intensive. Another alternative uses extremely high temperatures and pressures to selectively drive oxygen through ceramic membranes.
"Our approach uses electrochemistry to reversibly convert oxygen in air to ions, transport the ions across the membrane, and convert the ions back to pure oxygen on the other side of the membrane. All of this can be done at room temperature and ambient pressure. We continue to develop catalysts to make this process more efficient and economical. Increasingly, this technology can be used for other applications like hydrogen purification," Kitchin said.
An innovative researcher and educator, Kitchin received the Kun Li Award for Excellence in Education in 2010 and won a five-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2010 to develop new materials for producing hydrogen and oxygen from water using electrochemistry.Kitchin earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from North Carolina State and his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware.