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CoE associate professor wins elite Environmental Protection Agency award

CoE Associate Professor Galen Suppes received an elite Environmental Protection Agency award today for his development of an environmentally friendly antifreeze.

Suppes, an MU associate professor of chemical engineering, is the academic winner of this year’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, which recognizes innovative pollution-preventing chemical technologies. A panel of technical experts selected Suppes for the honor from a field of about 15 academic nominees, EPA representatives said.

“This is national recognition at the highest level for this area of research,” said Jinglu Tan, interim chair for MU’s chemical engineering department.

Suppes earned the award for creating an efficient process for converting natural glycerin—a byproduct of biodiesel fuel production—into a chemical called propylene glycol that can be used to make antifreeze. Advocates hope propylene glycol will replace a toxic chemical currently used in antifreeze production.

That aspiration moved closer to fruition with the successful completion recently of a pilot program called for in a contract with Senergy Chemical, a Washington state–based chemical manufacturing firm. Senergy is building a small commercial plant that will produce at least 60 million pounds of propylene glycol per year, and plans to produce as much as 100 million pounds of the non-toxic material each year.

Still, Suppes continues to work on improving the process he created. He also hopes to engineer more so–called “green” materials through the MU research group he heads, the Biomaterials and Bioprocessing Center.

“The propylene glycol process may be the first of several new green chemistry technologies coming from our lab to be commercialized,” Suppes said.

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