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Method for Reducing Sludge Wasting and Enhancing Bio-hydrogen Generation from the Activated Sludge Process
Treatment and disposal of bio-hazardous sludge accounts for 50-60% of the operational costs at a wastewater treatment plant. To treat this sludge, it undergoes a process involving thickening, conditioning, and dewatering, followed by transport to a landfill or incinerator. In addition to high costs, landfilling and incineration are detrimental from a sustainability standpoint.


In this patented invention, a closed, anaerobic, completely stirred tank side stream reactor is added after the outlet of the settling tank at the wastewater treatment plant. Solids retention time in the reactor is short (< 4 days), keeping its size and cost down. The acidic and anaerobic environment of the reactor causes biomass to deflocculate and sludge to hydrolyze, ultimately reducing sludge by 60%. The invention also has the added benefit of producing hydrogen and methane fuel. 

Published: 12/15/2017   |   Inventor(s): Chul Park, Dong Hyun Chon
Category(s): Clean Energy, Environmental, Engineering, Chemicals
Production of Specialty Chemicals with Carbon Dioxide Serving as the Carbon Source
Concerns of resource supply and climate change motivate the shift away from fuels and chemicals derived from fossil fuels towards domestic, sustainable production. The inventors’ patented technology presents a new way of doing this, using microorganisms that are able to take in CO2, water, and electricity and synthesize carbonaceous fuels and chemicals, akin to a reverse microbial fuel cell.


In “microbial electrosynthesis,” a term coined by the inventors, an anode and cathode are connected to a source of electrical power and separated by a permeable membrane. Electron-accepting microorganisms are coated on a cathode, where they reduce CO2 to multi-carbon products, while water is oxidized to oxygen at the anode. For example, the production of acetate would proceed as follows:


Anode: 4H2O --> 8H+ + 8e- + 2O2

Cathode: 2CO2 + 8H+ + 8e- --> CH3COOH + 2H2O

Overall: 2CO2 + 2H2O --> CH3COOH + 2O2


In addition to acetate, production of ethanol, butanol, propanol, formate, and 2-oxobutyrate have been demonstrated.

Published: 12/15/2017   |   Inventor(s): Kelly Nevin Lovley, Derek Lovley
Category(s): Chemicals, Clean Energy, Environmental
Facile synthesis of tin-containing zeolites
Heteroatom containing zeolite catalysts have shown excellent catalytic activity and thermal stability in petrochemical processes as well as for converting biomass into biofuels and high-value chemicals. However, their synthesis is difficult, requiring harsh chemicals and long synthesis times.


This patented technology is several rapid, high-yield synthesis methods for heteroatom containing zeolites, such as Sn-Beta. The method begins with adding zeolite seeds to a solution comprising a heteroatom source and a structure-directing agent. By directly adding the seeds to the solution without calcination or drying, the seeds do not agglomerate and as a result, crystallization time is shortened. To complete catalyst synthesis from the resulting gel, it is then heated to form a solid, filtered, washed, dried, and finally calcined.


Specific methods disclosed in this patent include one as short as 2 days and the first fluorine-free synthesis route. The catalysts were demonstrated to be active for both sugar isomerization and dehydration reactions, necessary in fuel and chemical synthesis.

Published: 12/14/2017   |   Inventor(s): Wei Fan, Chun-Chih Chang, Paul Dornath, Zhuopeng Wang
Category(s): Chemicals, Clean Energy, Engineering
Flame Retardant Monomers and Polymers
This invention provides new flame retardant monomers and polymers made using such and other monomers. The new flame retardant monomers can reduce polymer flammability due to char formation. Upon the incorporation of such monomers into the polymer structure, their additional functional groups or handles impart reactivity to the polymer, enabling the formation of new functional polymeric and composite materials.
Published: 9/14/2016   |   Inventor(s): Todd Emrick, Aabid Mir, Umesh Choudhary
Category(s): Chemicals, Material science, Physical Science
Rapid, Sensitive and Selective Sensors for Ionic Mercury
The ability to rapidly and selectively detect and quantify chemicals has profound implications for human and environmental health. As poisonous chemicals, such as mercury (from solid-waste incineration and fossil-fuel combustion), continue to contaminate land and/or water, the development of portable, convenient “in the field” chemosensors becomes critically important. This invention provides novel colorimetric sensors for rapid, sensitive and selective detection of ionic mercury (Hg2+). The detection can be implemented using paper strip, dipstick or solution based sensors that are easy and inexpensive to manufacture and convenient to use for “in the field” measurements.
Published: 6/25/2015   |   Inventor(s): Raja Shunmugam, Gregory Tew
Category(s): Chemicals, Devices & sensors
Deoxybenzoin-based Anti-flammable Polyphosphonate and Poly(arylate-phosphonate) Copolymer Compounds
Synthetic polymers are used extensively as plastics, rubbers, foams, textiles, and construction materials; however, the flammability of many polymers is recognized as a safety hazard and an important challenge in polymer research. To reduce polymer flammability, halogenated small molecule flame-retardant additives are commonly incorporated into polymer materials. However, such halogenated additives may compromise polymer properties, and moreover pose environmental problems associated with additive leaching. To overcome these problems, researchers at UMass Amherst have developed halogen-free, inherently flame-retardant polymers. This invention provides deoxybenzoin-based anti-flammable polyphosphonate and poly(acylate-phophonate copolymer compounds with low heat release capacity values and high char yields.
Published: 6/19/2015   |   Inventor(s): Todd Emrick, T. Ranganathan, E. Bryan Coughlin, Richard Farris, Joseph Zilberman
Category(s): Chemicals, Environmental, Material science, Physical Science
Anti-flammable Compounds and Adhesive Materials
This invention provides new chemical compositions and methods for the preparation of adhesive materials that have low flammability. The low flammability is due to newly invented organic/polymeric components used in the adhesive formulation, rather than through the addition of a conventional anti-flammable additives such as halogenated organic molecules or phosphorous-containing structures.
Published: 6/17/2015   |   Inventor(s): Todd Emrick, Justin Timmons, Megan Szyndler
Category(s): Chemicals, Environmental, Material science, Physical Science
Production of Hydrogen, Liquid Fuels, and Chemicals from Catalytic Processing of Bio-Oils
Need for Advancements in Bio Oil Technology

Several companies have been formed around the fast pyrolysis technique. Fast pyrolysis is the rapid heating of biomass (up to 9000C) in the absence of oxygen. Process conditions cause biomass to vaporize and then liquefy into bio-oil. Bio-oil is viscous, acidic and thermally unstable. On account of the high oxygen content, it is also low in energy content. These features make it unsuitable for use as a liquid fuel. Upgrading it by removing the oxygen content and by converting some of the high molecular weight compounds is a significant challenge.

Published: 5/29/2015   |   Inventor(s): George Huber, Tushar Vispute, Kamalakanta Routray
Category(s): Environmental, Chemicals
Enhanced hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose into glucose
Selective hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose into glucose is an important chemical reaction for the production of renewable biofuels and platform chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass. However, hydrolysis of cellulose remains a processing challenge. The current methods are not economically feasible compared to petroleum and the enzymatic catalytic pathway utilizes toxic and corrosive acids. In contrast, this novel invention overcomes these limits via a two-step process for the hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose to increase the efficiency of the acid catalyzed hydrolysis reaction. This prevents re-lamination of the glucan chains thus allowing for a rapid production of water-soluble sugar oligomers. A carbon-based catalyst can then rapidly hydrolyze the water-soluble glucan oligomers to 91.2% glucose yield faster than conventional approaches due to enhanced adsorption of glucan oligomers on the carbon surface.
Published: 4/24/2015   |   Inventor(s): Wei Fan, Paul Jakob Dauenhauer, Paul Dornath
Category(s): Chemicals, Environmental, Engineering, Clean Energy
Adhesion of a Metal Layer to a Substrate and Related Structures
The invention describes methods and resulting structures in which a metal layer is adhered to a surface of a substrate.  The methods involve applying a sacrificial acidic organic layer to the substrate prior to depositing the metal layer.  The sacrificial layer is consumed, leaving behind a metal/substrae interface that has excellent adhesion properties.
Published: 11/18/2014   |   Inventor(s): James Watkins, Yinfeng Zong
Category(s): Material science, Nanotechnology, Chemicals, Devices
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