UD to help boost energy efficiency and modular manufacturing with RAPID grants

The University of Delaware will continue to help drive a national push to double U.S. energy productivity by the year 2030 through research on four new projects funded by the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute. The awards, totaling $7,135,987, will grow to $15,885,987 with a contribution of $8,750,000 over five years from the State of Delaware.

Established in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Energy and led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), RAPID is part of a network of 14 Manufacturing USA Institutes, each focusing on a specialized technology. The common goal of these institutes is to advance U.S. manufacturing through innovation, collaboration and education by bridging the gap between the fundamental science conducted at universities and the commercial approach of industry.

Postdoctoral researchers

Postdoctoral researchers (from left) Himanshu Goyal, Udit Gupta and Talin Avanesian serve as computational experts on UD’s RAPID projects.

“The University of Delaware is an ideal partner in tackling the big energy challenges in manufacturing that RAPID is working to address,” said Charlie Riordan, vice president for research, scholarship and innovation. “UD has a legacy of innovation in chemical processing, from Nobel Prize-winning work that revolutionized pharmaceutical production, to recent successes in converting plant waste into useful products.”

Managed by the Delaware Energy Institute (DEI), RAPID-funded researchers and partners will work on projects tackling important questions in energy and chemical production and renewability. More than 20 graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and staff have been enlisted to assist with UD’s RAPID projects.

“Our goal is to collaborate with industry to accelerate technological developments in existing manufacturing as well as distributed manufacturing for offshore and remote locations,” said Dion Vlachos, director of DEI and the Allan and Myra Ferguson Chair of Chemical Engineering. “This will allow us to be more energy-efficient and thus conserve energy and emit less CO2 and tap into underutilized resources, such as trees, biogas, remote natural gas, and food waste.”

The following proposals were selected for RAPID funding:

  • Sugars-to-Bioproducts Scalable Platform Technology. Basudeb Saha, associate director of research at DEI, and Raul Lobo, Claire D. LeClaire Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will develop a scalable technology to allow for a more efficient and inexpensive conversion of biomass into chemicals and fuels, in partnership with Rutgers University and KU Leuven.
  • Efficient Chemicals Production via Chemical Looping. Bingjun Xu, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, Babatunde Ogunnaike, outgoing dean in the College of Engineering and William L. Friend Chair of Chemical Engineering, and Raul Lobo will explore chemical looping technology to bridge gaps in chemical production, in partnership with Dow Chemical Company.
  • Intensified Microwave Reactor Technology. Vlachos, Saha and Lobo will investigate and develop scalable microwave technologies based on renewable electricity that can be applied across industries, in partnership with United Technologies Research Center, Rutgers University and KU Leuven.
  • RAPID Reaction Software Ecosystem. Vlachos, Xu, Marat Orazov, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, Michela Taufer, professor of computer and information sciences, and Sunita Chandrasekaran, assistant professor in computer and information sciences, will attempt to build hi-tech modeling software that can analyze, design, and optimize modular manufacturing processes, in partnership with Process Systems Enterprise, Dow Chemical Company, University of Minnesota and University of Massachusetts.

A fifth RAPID project, entitled Three-Way Catalytic Distillation to Renewable Surfactants via Triglycerides, will be led by University of Minnesota associate professor Paul Dauenhauer, and assisted by Ogunnaike, in partnership with Sironix Renewables. The project will aim to establish more efficient methods for converting renewable feedstocks into useful compounds called surfactants, which can be used in detergents, emulsifiers and dispersing agents.

Graduate students

Graduate students Eric Steinman (left) and Casper Brady analyze readouts from the RAPID reactor located in Colburn Laboratory.

About DEI

The Delaware Energy Institute was established in 2008 to provide a focal point for energy-related activities at UD and to marshal and expand the University’s science, engineering and public policy expertise in new and emerging energy technologies. The institute’s strengths include catalysis, photovoltaics, hydrogen generation and storage, fuel cells, biofuels, wind energy, nanomaterials and high-efficiency solar.


The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Institute is focused on addressing modular chemical process intensification and modular manufacturing barriers to enable the development of breakthrough technologies, boosting energy productivity and energy efficiency in industries such oil and gas, pulp and paper and various domestic chemical manufacturers.

Catalysis/ReactionsCleaner, Greener U.S. Manufacturing