Clayton Wheeler is professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Maine. He received his BS, MS and PhD degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. He gained industrial process experience with Texaco, Inc. and sensor design experience as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. His research interests include using reaction mechanisms to improve sensor design and calorimetric sensing for rapid catalyst discovery. He has integrated creative teaching methods into courses such as core process engineering courses at the University of Maine and a unique, simulation-based, capstone course for pulp and paper technology programs.
We are using microfabricated devices to study gas reaction kinetics and dynamics on sensor and catalyst materials, while developing combinatorial tools and techniques for rapid catalyst screening. The research involves clean room fabrication processes, characterizing solid-state materials deposited using ink jet printing, and studying catalytic reactions with techniques such as Raman or FTIR spectroscopies or temperature programmed reaction using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.
In Other Words
We are working on processes to convert wood waste to chemicals such as home heating oil. We are using inkjets similar to those in home printers to make new catalyst materials that help reactions to produce the right chemicals at lower temperatures. The inkjets make lots of material combinations on arrays of miniature reactors (computer chips) that we fabricate on silicon wafers. We identify the most promising reaction properties by measuring the amount of heat produced on each reactor and we use microscopes to identify the reaction products.
Clayton Wheeler is investigating a wood to fuel pathway called UMaine thermal deoxygenation (TDO). UMaine TDO is wholly unique to the university and appears to be the most promising revolution in drop-in biofuel research nationwide.