World Renowned Chemical Engineer Comes to BYU


Dr. Alex Bell from the University of California, Berkeley will be speaking at the Izatt-Christensen lecture sponsored every year by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Alexis T. Bell received both his B.S. and Sc.D. degrees in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and has remained there since then. During 1979-1981 he served as the Assistant Dean of the College of Chemistry; during 1981-1991 and 2005-2006, as the Chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering; and during 1994-1999, as Dean of the College of Chemistry. Professor Bell is also a Faculty Senior Scientist in the Chemical Sciences Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Professor Bell is known internationally for his research in the field of heterogeneous catalysis and is recognized as a pioneer in developing in situ spectroscopic techniques and isotopic tracer techniques for the study of catalyzed reactions. His work has focused on identify the physical and chemical factors limiting the activity and selectivity of heterogeneous catalysts. These objectives are pursued through a combination of experimental and theoretical methods. Spectroscopic techniques, including IR, Raman, NMR, UV-Visible, XANES and EXAFS, are used to characterize catalyst structure and adsorbed species under actual conditions of catalysis. Isotopic tracers and temperature-programmed desorption and reaction techniques are used to elucidate the pathways via which catalyzed reactions occur. He has also been a leader in the application of quantum chemical calculations to define the structure and energetics of adsorbed species and the pathways by which such species are transformed. His work has shown that the combined use of theory and experimental methods enables the attainment of a deeper understanding of the core issues than can be achieved by using either approach alone.

Professor Bell has received many honors for his research contributions. These include the Curtis W. McGraw Award for Research, given by the American Association of Engineering Education; the Professional Progress, R. H. Wilhelm, and William H. Walker Awards given by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; the Award for Creative Research in Homogeneous or Heterogeneous Catalysis and the George Olah Award in Petroleum or Hydrocarbon Research, given by the American Chemical Society; the Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis; and the Michel Boudart Award for Advancement of Research in Catalysis given by the North American Catalysis Society and the European Federation of Catalysis Societies. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and an Honorary Professor by the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He has also been honored by the AIChE as one of the “One Hundred Engineers of the Modern Era” and by the Chinese Academy of Sciences as an Einstein Professor. He currently serves on the editorial board of a large number of journals and is the Editor for ''Catalysis Reviews''.

Public Lecture


The public is invited to attend both of Dr. Bell’s lectures. The general session is for a technical and non-technical audience and will be held March 19, 2015, at 5:00 p.m. in the JSB auditorium (Joseph Smith Building).

The Case for Developing Renewable Energy Source and the Challenges Ahead
The economic success of nations depends on the availability and expenditure of inexpensive energy source that can be converted to electricity and transportation fuels. For over a century, the primary energy resources have been coal, oil, and natural gas. However, the increasing use of these fossil fuels has led to an increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and to increasingly noticeable and significant changes in the environment. This talk will review these issues and then ask how fossil energy resources might be replaced in time with renewable resources, such as biomass for transportation fuels and solar energy for electricity. The possibility of using solar energy to drive the photoelectrochemical splitting of water to produce hydrogen or the reduction of CO2 to produce fuels will also be examined. The challenges to using biomass and solar energy will be examined and the role that will be played in addressing these challenges and opportunities by future generations of scientists and engineers.

Technical Lecture


The more technical presentation will be held on March 19, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in W111 of the BNSN (Ezra Taft Benson Building).

The Role of Experimental and Theoretical Methods in the Development of a Molecular Perspective of Catalysis
A long standing goal in the field of catalysis has been the desire to understand the structure of catalysts and the elementary processes occurring on catalysts at the atomic and molecular level with the expectation that such knowledge could provide the basis for deducing the physical and chemical principles underlying catalyst activity and selectivity. Steady progress to towards this goal has been enabled by the development of experimental methods for describing the composition and structure of active sites, the structure and dynamics of adsorbed species, the dynamics of elementary chemical reactions, and the mechanism and kinetics of catalyzed processes. During the past two decades, theoretical methods have begun to contribute to the development of a fundamental understanding of catalysts and catalyzed reactions in rapidly increasing manner. And, in fact, today theory and experiments are often used in a complimentary manner to obtain significantly deeper insights into what affects catalysis at the molecular level than could be achieved solely from experimental investigations. This talk will present several illustrations of how a molecular understanding of catalysis can be achieved by combining experiments and theory to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of catalysis than is attainable from either and experimental or theoretical perspective alone. These illustrations will include the use of atomic-resolution electron microscopy, NMR spectroscopy, x-ray absorption spectroscopy, IR and Raman spectroscopy, and density functional theory to investigate catalyzed reactions occurring on a variety of materials. The questions that will be addressed include the following. What is the structure of an active site? What is the mechanism by which reactants are transformed to products? How are the activity and selectivity of an active center affected by local composition, structure, and confinement?

Visiting BYU


For a map of campus see map.byu.edu. Visitors’ parking can be identified as the pink areas that appear by clicking Parking. Click Buildings to locate the Joseph Smith Building and Ezra Taft Benson Buildings as numbers 39 and 7, respectively. It is not possible to park adjacent to the buildings where the lectures will be held. Visitor parking is located by the Museum of Art (Building 64) and east of the Wilkinson Center (Building 90).

Prior Speakers