April 6, 2017 at 12:58 am

Botte Discusses Importance of Electrochemical Engineering at Science Cafe

By Amanda Biederman
NQPI editorial intern

In recent years, the need for sustainable manufacturing has become increasingly apparent. In a recent Science Cafe presentation, Dr. Gerardine Botte discussed how electrochemical engineering can be used to minimize costs and environmental impact at the industrial scale.

Dr. Gerardine Botte

Dr. Gerardine Botte

Botte, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute member, was a speaker at the first Ohio University Science Cafe in 2009. Coordinated by Environmental & Plant Biology Professor Sarah Wyatt, the Science Cafe Series is designed to allow researchers to discuss their research with the general public.

In Botte’s March 15 talk on “Electrons for Sustainable Manufacturing,” she discussed how chemical reactions can be manipulated to generate many different types of products more efficiently from raw materials.

“Typically in manufacturing, we are thinking of putting parts together, (such as) in an airplane,” Botte said. “But when we take a closer look at that airplane … there are different components. And one component is the materials airplanes are made of.”

Sustainable manufacturing is dependent on several variables including lower cost, higher purity, mild temperature and pressure, fewer steps and pollutants, lower energy and increased modularity. Botte described how by, controlling electrons directly, she can activate chemical reactions without requiring the use of heat.

Botte spoke about three of her projects that are relevant to the Southeastern Ohio region: engineering of graphene from coal, ammonia synthesis, and ammonia electrolysis. She is working to collaborate with industry members to design modular systems that allow chemical reactions to occur on site.

She spoke about her work (in collaboration with Wyatt)  on the development of modular cells that treat plants with ammonia directly, serving as fertilizer. Additionally, she discussed her development of GreenBoxes, which are used by Athens Wastewater Treatment Plant to remove ammonia effectively and efficiently from wastewater.

Botte said that although technological advances increase the potential for electrochemical engineering, many misconceptions remain about this technology. Botte said that education, collaboration and outreach are critical to the advancement of electrochemical engineering.

“My talk is about sustainability – but (this includes) sustainability in education as well,” Botte said. “I need more of the next me who are going to continue doing this.”

Science Cafe events are held on Wednesdays at 5 pm in the OHIO Baker Center Front Room Coffeehouse.

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