Dr. Joan Brennecke is internationally known for her research in the development of supercritical fluids and ionic liquids. Earning her doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1989 she is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, and the American Society for Engineering Education and serves in two roles at the University Of Notre Dame.
As the Keating-Crawford Professor of Chemical and Molecular Engineering she is the leader of a research group that focuses on using ionic liquids to develop environmentally benign or “green” processes. These ionic liquids have unique properties, including being liquid at room temperature, having a very low vapor pressure and a very high boiling point. Their low vapor pressure means they won’t contribute to air pollution and their high boiling point means they will actually break down before they boil. Using these solvents she hopes to be able to more economically separate carbon dioxide from the flue gases from coal burning power plants. The current technology that could be used to remove this gas is very expensive, using about thirty percent of the power produced so it isn’t widely used, her team hopes to get that number below ten percent.
As director of the Notre Dame Energy Center she has shared the three areas of focus of the center: the first is research into making nuclear energy safer, the second in cleaner fossil fuel usage, and the third in using solar energy to capture and convert carbon dioxide to be reused as liquid fuels.
Brennecke has received numerous awards for her work including the 1991 Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation and the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2000. In 2014 she was named to Thomson Reuter’s list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds for her work with supercritical fluids and ionic liquids. She is on many boards across her areas of expertise and has co-authored more than 120 technical and scientific papers.
Suggested By: Madeleine Jacobs
Written by Angela Goad