Rakesh Agrawal

DBR Distinguished Speaker Series 2014-2015

"Engineering a Sustainable Energy Future"


In the long run, it is likely that all the basic human needs will be met by renewable sources like solar energy. However, there are several challenges associated with harness, storage and use of solar energy to meet our daily needs for food, chemicals, heat, electricity and transportation. In a sustainable future, all these usage must coexist.

We will first present some results from our energy systems modeling highlighting the synergistic interactions that exist for transportation sector and production of chemicals. This will be followed by a brief discussion and analysis of candidate processes to produce hydrogen from solar energy and our modeling results for energy storage at giga Watt-hour levels.

An exciting aspect of producing fuels and chemicals from biomass is learning to produce the array of molecules that we need with minimum process transformation steps and energy use while maximizing biomass carbon recovery. In this aspect, recent advancements at Purdue by a team of chemists, biologists and chemical engineers will be presented. We will show the new pathways and the associated catalysts that have been developed for the production of fuel and chemicals.

On the sun to electricity front, we will present highlights of our research on thin film solar cells via nanoparticle ink based route. We will discuss process and technical solutions leading to power conversion efficiencies that are among the highest for Cu(In,Ga)Se2 and Cu2ZnSnSe4 based solar cells by solution based routes.


Rakesh Agrawal is Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor, School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University. Previously, he was an Air Products Fellow at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., where he worked until 2004. Dr. Agrawal received a B. Tech. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur; a M.Ch.E. from the University of Delaware, and an Sc.D. in chemical engineering from the MIT.

A major thrust of his research is related to energy issues and includes novel processes for fabrication of low-cost solar cells, biomass to liquid fuel conversion, and energy systems analysis. His research further includes synthesis of multicomponent separation configurations including distillation, membrane and adsorption based processes, basic and applied research in gas separations, process development, gas liquefaction processes and cryogenics.

He has published 132 technical papers and has given 175 invited lectures. He holds 120 U.S. and more than 500 foreign patents. These patents are used in over one hundred chemical plants with total capital expenditure in multibillion dollars. He has received nearly four dozen awards. He was a Regents Lecturer at University of California, Los Angeles in 2004. He was a member of the NRC Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) and a member of the AIChE’s Board of Directors. He has served on the technology advisory boards of seven national and international companies. He is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, US National Academy of Inventors, and a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering. He was recognized as a distinguished alumnus by IIT Kanpur in 2012. Agrawal received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from the U.S. President in 2011, the highest honor given by the US government for technology.

Rakesh Agrawal

Dr. Rakesh Agrawal

Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University


April 2, 2015


3:30 pm - 4:30 pm


ETLC 1-001


Dr. Arvind Rajendran