(2bl) Bridging the Gap between Structure & Function for Sustainable Carbonaceous Systems: An Analytical Multi-Scale Approach | AIChE

(2bl) Bridging the Gap between Structure & Function for Sustainable Carbonaceous Systems: An Analytical Multi-Scale Approach


LeClerc, H. - Presenter, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Research Interests: Climate change is a world-changing problem that continues to wreak additional havoc across the globe. Industries furthering these impacts include fuels, electricity, and chemical manufacturers. In addition, cities and municipalities are struggling to find additional space for landfills. My research interests aim to solve both problems simultaneously, by valorizing waste to chemicals and fuels, thereby diverting waste from landfills and finding fossil fuel alternatives. The issue that remains in these solutions, however, is the sheer complexity of waste-based and biomass-based wastes and materials. Solving the world’s environmental problems will take careful analysis and understanding of the fundamental chemistry governing these complex systems.

In my PhD research I have worked to understand the complex chemical mechanisms of waste-based hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) using a mixture of computational and high-resolution analytical techniques. This work resulted in the culmination of my thesis on deconvoluting biocrude formation pathways in hydrothermal liquefaction. I utilized density functional theory (DFT) coupled with microkinetic modeling to understand nitrogen intermediate chemistry in food waste HTL. This work was then compared with experimental results from GC-MS and Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) to confirm molecular trends and species. Both one and two-dimensional GC alongside FT-ICR MS have been used extensively in my research to analyze biocrude and aqueous phases to determine the effect of catalyst, feedstock composition, and reaction conditions- all creating a dent in understanding the complex mixture of tens of thousands of biomass-based compounds.

Motivated by these grand challenges, my research aims to utilize kinetic modeling, computational thermodynamics, and advanced spectroscopy and spectrometry techniques to understand the mechanisms governing waste valorization. My group on complex environmental chemistry will serve as an important steppingstone towards commercialization of renewable processes by providing chemical insights to govern process conditions and scale-up.

Teaching Interests: My teaching interests span the realm of traditional kinetics and reaction engineering as well as thermodynamics. Beyond traditional chemical engineering courses, I aim to develop an analytical chemistry course for engineers, which first explains the type of analyses that can be completed and when to use each one. Ideally, the class would contain a lab portion that allows for use of these analytical instruments. Due to my unique skillset and background in chemistry and chemical engineering, I have observed a distinct lack of knowledge in chemical analysis at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

My experiences in teaching began as an undergraduate chemistry tutor and lab teaching assistant, serving in a variety of courses from general chemistry to physical chemistry. Throughout my PhD I have had the opportunity to further expand these skills through a course on teaching pedagogy as well as serving as a teaching assistant for chemical engineering design and serving as a co-instructor for chemical engineering unit operations.