Nav: Home

UCLA's James Liao receives Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from EPA

June 21, 2010

James C. Liao, the Chancellor's Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been awarded the 2010 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The award promotes research on and development of less-hazardous alternative technologies that reduce or eliminate waste -- particularly hazardous waste -- in industrial production.

Liao, the first UCLA professor to receive the award in its 15-year history, is being recognized for his groundbreaking work recycling carbon dioxide for the biosynthesis of higher alcohols. This process turns CO2 -- a greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels -- into products that can be used in alternative transportation fuels or chemical feedstock, reducing greenhouse emissions and providing for cleaner, greener energy worldwide.

In the last few years, Liao has received widespread attention for his work in developing methods for the production of more efficient biofuels by genetically modifying E. coli bacteria, and, most recently, for modifying cyanobacterium to consume CO2 to produce the liquid fuel isobutanol. The reaction is powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.

"The release of CO2 from the use of petroleum as a source of fuel and chemicals has contributed significantly to climate change in the past few decades," Liao said. "To alleviate this problem, it is essential to develop a renewable source to replace petroleum as the major chemical and energy source. I am honored that our work is being recognized with this award from the EPA."

Liao continues to be at the forefront of efforts to develop new methods for producing environmentally friendly biofuels and chemicals. Sponsored by KAITEKI Institute Inc. (TKI), the strategic arm of one of Japan's largest chemical companies, he and his team are researching ways to recycle and convert CO2 into chemicals that can be used to produce a variety of industrial products, including car bumpers, packaging materials, DVDs and even diapers.

"Bio-based chemicals and fuels are potentially carbon-neutral. However, their development has been hampered by a few obstacles," Liao said. "Our technology addresses the problems effectively and increases the range of alcohols that can be produced biologically. An independent review shows that our CO2-conversion technology compares very favorably to all other existing and more mature technologies."

In addition to his TKI sponsorship, Liao was awarded $4 million this May by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop a method for converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuel isobutanol using electricity as the energy source instead of sunlight. The process would store electricity in fuels that can be used as high-octane gasoline substitutes.

The potential immediate impact of this research, Liao says, is that it would solve the electricity storage problem by converting electrical energy to liquid fuels that are fully compatible with the current infrastructure for distribution, storage and utilization. In the long run, the process could be extended to utilize solar energy via electricity or electron mediators to directly produce liquid fuel usable in internal combustion engines.

"Global climate change has heightened the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Jim's work will provide cleaner energy sources and change the world for the better," said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of UCLA Engineering. "We are proud of his significant accomplishments."

Over the past 15 years, the work of those honored with the EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award has led to the elimination of more than 1.3 billion pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, nearly 43 billion gallons of water, and about 450 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
-end-
The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmental graduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to eight multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies.

For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.

University of California - Los Angeles

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...