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Aaron Scurto

Aaron Scurto

Associate Professor

4141C Learned Hall 1530 W 15th St
Lawrence, KS 66045
Phone: (785) 864-4947
Fax: (785) 864-4967
E-mail: ascurto@ku.edu

 

Education

  • BChE University of Delaware, 1997 (Thesis & Bioengineering concentration)
  • PhD, University of Notre Dame, 2002 (with Prof. Joan F. Brennecke
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, RWTH-Aachen, Germany, 2003 (with Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner)
  • Postdoctoral Associate, MIT, 2004 (with Prof. Alexander Klibanov)

Research Interests

  • Chemo-Enzymatic Catalysis - Asymmetric/Enantioselective Catalysis:
    • - Organometallic Catalysis
    • - Biocatalysis

  • Nano-scale Materials Production and Processing in Supercritical Fluids:
    • - Nanocomposites for Gas Separations
    • - Semi-conductor Metal removal from nano-scale lithographies

  • Green/Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
  • Alternative Solvents: Supercritical Fluids & Ionic Liquids
  • High-Pressure Phase Behavior & Modeling

 

Professor Scurto's research focuses on the relationship between the solvent and catalysts or metal complexes. Emphasis is on homogeneous catalysts (soluble metal complexes or bio-catalysis/enzyme catalysts) in a variety of reactions, but primarily enantio-selective (chiral) reactions. The fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries of tomorrow will be increasingly applying both organometallic and biocatalysis for the complete synthesis of desired compounds. Understanding the limits of the individual methods and possible coordination schemes is of potential interest. Spectroscopic techniques are used to probe the molecular level interactions to interpret macro-scale results such as reaction rates, and chemo-, region- and enantio-selectivity. Understanding how the solvent affects the catalyst and reactants both in terms of catalysis and phase equilibrium thermodynamics is of utmost importance in homogeneous catalysis. Often, catalyst performance is sacrificed for ease of separation and ability to recycle the metal complex. Novel schemes are being develop for reaction/separation processes. Among the different solvents of interest are supercritical fluids such as CO2, and a new class of solvents called ionic liquids (organic salts liquid near ambient conditions). These fluids are being considered as possible organic solvent replacements due to their environmentally benign or completely nonvolatile nature. The tenets of green/sustainable chemistry and engineering are pursued to provide real alternatives to current polluting process for both existing products and technologies and to use their unique properties to develop new ones. This includes novel materials processing ideas, such as the use of compressed CO2 to remove metals from nano-scale semiconductor geometries and to create nano-composite membranes with metal complexes for enhance gas separation, e.g. hydrogen recovery. Reliable modeling of phase behavior is extremely important for the development of compressed CO2 processes.