Chemical Engineering Graduate Students Present at Catalysis Club of Philadelphia

Andrew Ferens and Kevin Brodwater, both graduate students in chemical engineering, represented Villanova Engineering at the Catalysis Club of Philadelphia’s annual Graduate Student Poster Presentation in October. Ferens placed in the top five of all presenters, which included students from other prominent regional engineering programs.

“Presenting at this event was a great opportunity for our students to get engaged in the local industrial community and to learn what students are doing in other schools,” says Dr. Michael Smith, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and past president of the Catalysis Club of Philadelphia. “The club holds monthly meeting with an invited speaker, and we always encourage our students to attend, where we hope they learn something that connects their educational experience to real-world practice.”

Ferens, who is advised by Dr. Randy Weinstein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering, is conducting research into how the structures of graphite nanofibers affect their catalytic properties. Ferens is exploring how the various edges available for catalysis change based on the orientation of the nanofibers he produces, which include “ribbon,” “platelet,” or “herringbone” fiber structures. Ferens’ research will also appear in an upcoming issue of Carbon, a scholarly journal that publishes original research on carbonaceous solids with an emphasis on graphene-based materials.

Brodwater, who is advised by Dr. Dorothy Skaf, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, is investigating the photocatalytic reactions of waste glycerol and biomass with water in the presence of a metal-impregnated titanium dioxide catalyst. His research involves testing the effects of metal loading, temperature, and pH effects. He also performs gas phase and liquid phase analyses. Preliminary results suggest that hydrogen and small quantities of carbon dioxide are produced in the gas phase. Among the liquid phase analyses, methanol and acetic acid have been successfully identified.