Chemistry at Illinois alum Kandis Leslie Abdul-Aziz (PhD, '17, Hirata) is working on a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE) at the University of California Riverside.
Abdul-Aziz has been awarded a $538,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award to develop a novel approach to convert greenhouse gases into chemicals that can be used as energy sources, according to an announcement from UCR.
One strategy to reduce CO2 emissions is carbon capture and sequestration, essentially capturing and/or converting those molecules to higher-value chemicals, which is the approach Abdul-Aziz is pursuing in her research supported by the NSF CAREER Award.
Abdul-Aziz will use a special family of perovskite materials to both capture CO2 and catalyze its conversion into hydrocarbons by reaction with methane. These hydrocarbons – syngas, ethane and ethylene, can be readily converted into polymers and fuel as future supplies of energy and chemical raw materials.
“I am excited to work on new technology to convert carbon dioxide and methane into usable chemical commodities,” said Abdul-Aziz. “The approach developed in this project will provide a route to optimize material properties and CO2 utilization for both lab and process scales.”
Abdul-Aziz said the will also address the challenges of using atmospheric CO2 as a feedstock, including separation from air or waste streams and efficient conversion to larger organic molecules.”
The grant will also increase access to research opportunities in the sustainability space for women students of all levels – from pre-college to graduate level. Abdul-Aziz plans to develop an annual graduate preparation retreat for first-year graduate women in engineering, research opportunities for undergraduate women and transfer students, and hands-on engineering activities for K-18 girls.
After finishing her doctorate at Illinois chemistry, where she was a member of So Hirata's research group and a member of the Women Chemists Committee, Abdul-Aziz was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania before she joining the UCR faculty as an assistant professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering. She was named a Scialog Fellow in 2021, and is an editorial advisory board member for ACS Catalysis.