University of Massachusetts Amherst

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The UMass News Office reports that Professor Wei Fan of our Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department is a member of the team of chemical engineering researchers that has developed a new environmentally friendly chemical process to make p-xylene, an important ingredient of common plastics. The new method has a 97-percent yield and uses sustainable biomass as the feedstock. P-xylene is currently produced from petroleum. The team also includes UMass ChE doctoral students Hong Je Cho and Vivek Vattipalli.

On the weekend of October 30, an intrepid group of offshore-wind-energy experts took a blustery pilgrimage by sailboat to view the first offshore wind farm ever established in the United States. The five wind turbines, just south of Block Island, make up the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, built by Deepwater Wind of Providence. The trip – taken by several faculty and alumni of what is now called the University of Massachusetts Wind Energy Center (WEC) and their colleagues from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – proved to be a stormy experience that embodied the very power of the term “offshore wind energy.”

In a continuing pattern of outstanding undergraduate research, two of the six students chosen as Rising Researchers at UMass for the fall of 2016 are engineers. The Rising Researcher program celebrates undergraduate students who excel in research, scholarship, or creative activity. This semester’s outstanding engineering undergrads named on the biannual list are mechanical engineering major Victor Champagne and physics and chemical engineering major Robert Johnston. Having multiple engineering representatives among the Rising Researchers has become something of a tradition over the past few years.