Joan Brennecke

Women in STEM
Joan Brennecke

Specialty:  Chemical Engineering

Major Contributions:

Leader in the development of “green” solvents

Thomson Reuter-World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds

Former Director of the Notre Dame Energy Center

Image Courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin

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. She previously served in two roles at the University Of Notre Dame and is now a professor and lab director at the University of Texas at Austin.

As the Cockrell-Family Chair in 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. 

With an overall goal in understanding how the choice of anion, cation, and substituents on the cation affects thermophysical properties and phase behavior, the Brennecke Research Group’s current work focuses on the design and testing of new ionic liquids for use as electrolytes.

Beyond teaching and leading research, she is also the Deputy Director of one of five National Science Foundation Research Centers – the Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources which leads basic research aimed at the development of America’s light hydrocarbon resources. The center has hosted undergraduate students as well as teachers in summer programs that allows them to do real-life research and then serve as mentors in the National Society of Black Engineers Summer Engineering Experience for Kids.

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


University of Texas at Austin: Joan Brennecke

Brennecke Research Group

Joan Brennecke and the Creation of Ionic Liquids

AIChE: Dr Joan F. Brennecke

CISTAR at UT Austin

See Also:

Thomson Reuters names three Notre Dame faculty among the world’s most influential scientific minds

Joan F. Brennecke awarded American Chemical Society’s E.V. Murphree Award