Saturday, July 20, 2024

Louisiana Tech’s Dr. Yang Xiao Wins Prestigious NSF Grant to Convert Shale Gas into Clean Energy

by BIZ Magazine

RUSTON, LA — Dr. Yang Xiao, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Louisiana Tech University, has secured a nearly $200,000 U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to advance his pioneering research on converting methane into carbon-free hydrogen and ethane. The two-year Engineering Research Initiation (ERI) grant supports Xiao’s project, which aims to transform natural gas into cleaner energy sources, marking a significant milestone for sustainable energy research.

The highly selective ERI grants are awarded by the NSF Directorate for Engineering to bolster the research capacity of new academic researchers. Xiao’s award will facilitate the establishment of a new experimental setup at the Xiao Research Group Lab, enhancing both research and educational infrastructure at Louisiana Tech and its Institute for Micromanufacturing. The project team includes Xiao, one doctoral student, and one undergraduate student.

Xiao’s research focuses on leveraging MXenes, a cutting-edge class of nanomaterials known for their unique ability to accelerate chemical reactions at high temperatures. These advanced materials are pivotal in efficiently converting methane, a major component of natural gas, into ethane and hydrogen. Unlike traditional catalysts, MXenes offer superior stability and effectiveness, breaking down methane molecules without producing harmful byproducts. This process not only generates ethane and hydrogen but also significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions compared to conventional methods.

Cleanly produced hydrogen presents a promising pathway for energy production, emitting only water vapor, while ethane is a critical precursor for producing ethylene, essential in manufacturing polyethylene plastics used across various industries.

Xiao’s research employs advanced instruments to design novel catalysts, aiming to have a substantial impact on Northern Louisiana. This region, home to the vast natural gas deposits in the Haynesville Shale, stands to benefit from the development of skilled workers and innovation in the chemical and petroleum industries.

“Our research group greatly appreciates the support from the NSF – CBET Division – Catalysis Program,” Xiao said. “This ERI project enables us to continue the fundamental research on the carbon/hydrogen bond cleavage in methane molecules and develop more collaboration opportunities with Louisiana gas and oil companies.”

Dr. Collin Wick, dean of the College of Engineering and Science at Louisiana Tech, praised Xiao’s relentless pursuit of this promising technology. “Dr. Xiao has been relentlessly pushing the envelope of this promising new technology since he arrived at Tech. He is truly at the forefront of chemical technology, and our students are working alongside him to innovate how we approach fuel and energy challenges. I am thankful that the NSF saw this value and awarded the grant to him.”

Dr. Sumeet Dua, Executive Vice President for Research and Chief Research Officer at Louisiana Tech, highlighted the significance of Xiao’s work. “Dr. Xiao’s research epitomizes the innovative and high-impact scientific inquiry that Louisiana Tech is dedicated to advancing. This NSF grant not only acknowledges his pioneering methodologies in clean energy conversion but also highlights the crucial role our institution plays in tackling global energy challenges through advanced engineering solutions. We are proud to support Dr. Xiao and his team as they progress this transformative technology, leveraging state-of-the-art nanomaterials and catalytic processes to achieve significant advancements in methane conversion and carbon emissions reduction.”

Tobias Misicko, a third-year doctoral student and student leader of the Xiao Research Group, expressed his excitement about the project. “Working in the laboratory with Dr. Xiao has taught me many important skills and techniques for research,” he said. “I am looking forward to further applying my laboratory catalysis and reaction engineering skills in this ERI project to understand shale gas conversion in chemical reactors and conduct new experiments.”

Xiao’s innovative research holds the promise of a cleaner future, transforming shale gas into a powerful ally in the quest for sustainable energy and providing a significant boost to the Louisiana economy.

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