AMHERST, Mass. – Paul J. Dauenhauer, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been named the John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professional Development Professor. The UMass Board of Trustees approved the appointment on Feb. 26.
The Armstrong professorship was established in 2001 with an endowment of $850,000 and a $650,000 matching grant from the UMass President’s Distinguished Professorship Initiative. It is a three-year award to a faculty member in the College of Engineering “who is at the beginning of his or her career and has demonstrated substantial achievement and great promise in his or her area of teaching and research.”
Dauenhauer joined the university in 2009. He received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation CAREER Program in 2012 to fund his research into an experimental technique known as “pulsed-film pyrolysis.” It gives biofuels researchers the ability to test the speeds of hundreds of chemical reactions that occur inside a fast-pyrolysis reactor when converting biomass into the chemicals that make up green fuels and many other products. Dauenhauer says, “Pulsed-film pyrolysisis the last missing tool in our efforts to make sustainable biofuels economically competitive with unsustainable fossil fuels.”
In 2013, he received a $75,000DuPont Young Professor Award. Dauenhauer was one of 14 researchers selected for the award. It supports Dauenhauer’s research into developing an economical green process for the production of aromatic chemicals – key building blocksfor the production of polymers including polystyrene, polyurethane, nylon and PET– from various forms of sugar common in sustainable biomass.
Dauenhauer also received an $800,000 Early Career Award in Basic Energy Sciences from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2011. The grant was used for his research on, “the conversion of wood, grasses and agricultural byproducts to fuels and chemicals that occurs through rapid heating methods including pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion.” He says that during the rapid heating of biomass, the long polymer chains that make up many types of plants thermally degrade to chemicals which can then be refined into fuels and other products.
The Armstrongs are major supporters of the College of Engineering. The two previous recipients of the Armstrong professorship were David McLaughlin, electrical and computer engineering and the director of the $40-million Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere Engineering Research Center, and George Huber, former professor of chemical engineering.