WORCESTER, Mass. - The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the world’s leading organization for chemical engineering professionals, will honor Yi Hua Ma, Frances B. Manning Professor of Chemical Engineering at WPI and director of the university’s Center for Inorganic Membrane Studies, at its annual meeting in San Francisco next week by holding two sessions on membrane-based separations in his honor.
The sessions, scheduled for 8:30-11 a.m. and 12:30-3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13, in Yosemite Room C in the Hilton San Francisco, will include 12 invited presentations that build upon Ma’s pioneering efforts in the development and use of inorganic membranes and membrane reactors, and upon his fundamental studies of reactions in porous adsorbents and catalysts.
Ma, who joined the WPI faculty in 1967, served as head of the Chemical Engineering Department from 1979 to 1989. He founded the Center for Inorganic Membrane Studies in 1988. He holds a BS in chemical engineering from National Taiwan University, an MS in chemical engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and an ScD in chemical engineering from MIT. WPI honored Ma with its 1994 Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Scholarship; he received the NASA Space Act Award in 1997.
His research on adsorption and diffusion, inorganic materials and membranes, and membrane reactors has resulted in more than 100 scholarly publications and four patents (with three additional patent applications pending). He has served as chairman of the AIChE's Adsorption and Ion Exchange Committee, a director of the International Adsorption Society, a council member and vice president of the International Zeolite Association.
Over the past decade, Ma and his research team have been developing a novel chemical reactor that uses an ultra-thin membrane made from palladium to separate hydrogen derived from natural gas or renewable sources, such as corn. The work has been funded by major research awards from Shell International Exploration & Production and Shell Hydrogen, and more recently by the U.S. Department of Energy. The reactor is able to significantly reduce the cost of generating hydrogen pure enough to power fuel cells without poisoning their catalysts. Shell hopes to make the reactor the heart of a hydrogen refueling network for cars within a decade or so.