NIU-Argonne innovation wins prestigious R&D 100 Award

R&D World Magazine has named an innovative discovery first made in an NIU laboratory on campus among the prestigious R&D 100 Awards.

Sometimes called the​ “Oscars of Innovation,” R&D 100 Awards honor revolutionary ideas in science and technology and the innovators behind them.

In August, a research team, led by NIU and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, announced the discovery of a new electrocatalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into ethanol with very high energy efficiency, high selectivity for the desired final product and low cost.

Ethanol is a particularly desirable commodity because it is an ingredient in nearly all U.S. gasoline and is widely used as an intermediate product in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. The unique synthetic method for production of electrocatalysts also can produce a range of other desired organic fuels.

Xu Tao

The report on the discovery, studied in detail at Argonne, was published in the July 27 issue of the scientific journal, Nature Energy. The team was led by NIU’s Tao Xu, a professor of chemistry specializing in nanotechnology, and Di-Jia Liu, a senior chemist in Argonne’s Chemical Sciences and Engineering division and a UChicago CASE scientist in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago.

The R&D 100 Award was given to both NIU and Argonne in the Mechanical/Materials category. Other NIU scientists working on project included Tao Li, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Haiping Xu and Dominic Rebollar, who both earned Ph.D.s from NIU in May.

“We’re thrilled that NIU faculty and students have been recognized for their exciting work,” said Jerry Blazey, NIU’s vice president for research and innovation partnerships. “Innovations like this could lead to a cleaner environment and brighter future for our planet.”

The R&D 100 Awards program, now in its 58th year, received entries from 19 countries across the world. This year, the judging panel grew to include nearly 50 well-respected industry professionals, including new judges in places such as Australia, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom.

Award winners are spotlighted in the November 2020 print issue of R&D World Magazine.

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