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NETL-RUA Engineer Earns Presidential Award for R&D That Could Help Meet DOE Carbon Capture Goals

July 23, 2012 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC - A Carnegie Mellon University professor who worked with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) on research that could help meet carbon capture goals has earned a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Dr. John Kitchin of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Chemical Engineering was recognized by the White House for his research in electrochemical separations for energy applications, which has the potential to enable clean coal technologies that meet U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) goals for carbon capture. He was also recognized for his dedication to educating the next generation of scientific leaders. NETL is the research laboratory for DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy.

"Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people." President Obama said. "The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead."

"I congratulate these award-winning young researchers and encourage them to continue on their paths to becoming the next generation of innovators, who will help America stay competitive in a rapidly advancing world," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Their cutting-edge research is helping to meet our energy challenges, strengthen our national security and enhance our economic competitiveness."

The annual PECASE awards are the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. Kitchin was nominated for the award by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy for his research efforts in collaboration with NETL and its Research University Alliance (RUA), an alliance of five universities that conduct fully integrated basic and applied energy and environmental research.

In Kitchin’s nominating letter, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Charles D. McConnell said, "Many young scientists benefit from hearing this professor lecture, and all of us benefit from his research, which has focused repeatedly on improving the efficiency of energy processes . . . His rapid ascent to the top of his field is a credit not only to his high standards of scientific rigor, but just as importantly, to his commitment to communicate what he knows through published papers, lectures, and mentoring the young scientists who may follow in his footsteps."

Kitchin has made significant contributions to the development of carbon capture technology in his collaborations with NETL, advancing efforts to enable the environmentally responsible use of fossil fuels in electricity generation. He was the first to demonstrate the use of an alkaline ion exchange membrane in the electrochemical separation of oxygen from air, which has the potential to displace cryogenic air distillation as the method for producing oxygen for oxy-combustion power generation. This advance also allows the use of inexpensive base-metal catalysts, and is closely linked to Kitchin’s contributions to fundamental advances in the computational modeling and design of new catalyst materials, for which he received a research grant under DOE’s 2010 Early Career Research Program.

Aside from his research and active support of the NETL-RUA carbon capture research team, Kitchen is an innovative teacher, having mentored 14 undergraduates and developed an interactive webinar series of lectures that were delivered live to grade school students. In appreciation of his dedication, he was awarded the Kun Li Teaching Award in 2010 for best lecturer in his department, as voted on by the senior class at Carnegie Mellon University.