Dow and Caltech's Resnick Institute Collaborate to Recognize Student Innovations in Sustainability

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Caltech’s 2015 SISCA winning projects advance the science of a sustainable route to fixed nitrogen for fertilizer and improve a wastewater treatment technology for the developing world

"Dow is proud to collaborate with Caltech and other leading universities to help foster the next generation of leaders, who will help solve global sustainability challenges by working outside their own areas of expertise.”

As the world is focused on reducing carbon emissions at the COP21, Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute has come together with The Dow Chemical Company to award a number of exceptional young scientists and engineers the Sustainable Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) for outstanding student achievement in sustainability innovation. Caltech graduate students in chemistry Trevor J. Del Castillo and Niklas B. Thompson were awarded the 2015 Grand Prize for work aimed at facilitating a sustainable route to nitrogen fixation –an essential and energy intensive process done on a massive scale to produce fertilizer. Cody Finke, a graduate student, and Justin Jasper, a postdoctoral scholar, are this year’s runners up for progress in developing a wastewater treatment technology that delivers a high quality of water within the constraints of the developing world. (For more detail about each of these projects, see http://resnick.caltech.edu/sisca-winners.php.)

“The SISCA program is designed to recognize and encourage students to take an interdisciplinary approach to innovate and address critical challenges in sustainability,” said Eunice Heath, Global Director, Sustainable Products Marketing and Strategy. “Dow is proud to collaborate with Caltech and other leading universities to help foster the next generation of leaders, who will help solve global sustainability challenges by working outside their own areas of expertise.”

By focusing on advanced research in nitrogen fixation, the Grand Prize Winning team of Castillo and Thompson are creating greater understanding of how to make this reaction occur under mild conditions, taking inspiration from biological enzymes that fix nitrogen. Their work helps to lay the scientific foundation that will be needed to achieve a sustainable source of fertilizer for global food production. The team’s research has led to robust improvement in the performance of an earth-abundant iron catalyst that fixes nitrogen to ammonia at low temperature and pressure. Coupled with an artificial photosynthesis device, the team envisions creating modular, affordable, onsite fertilizer production.

The runners up have enhanced a solar powered, electrochemical wastewater treatment system by incorporating a low-pressure (germicidal) UV lamp. The technology now rapidly disinfects and clarifies wastewater while removing nutrients and micronutrients, resulting in water that can be used for flushing, hand washing, as well as discharged for irrigation or ecosystem services.

According to Dr. Neil Fromer, Executive Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech, “These two teams have used some of the most sophisticated scientific approaches available to solve critical problems that are essential to the future of the planet.”

The Dow SISCA Award
In alignment with Dow’s 2025 Sustainability Goals, the Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) program promotes forward thinking in social and environmental responsibility and acknowledges the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of the students and their university professors, sponsors and facilitators who support their sustainability innovations and efforts in continued excellence. Since its inception in 2009, the SISCA program has continued to expand and now engages students from 18 universities around the world. The spirit and power of global collaboration has sparked the development of long-lasting and impactful solutions.
For more information see http://www.dow.com/sustainability/studentchallenge/

About Dow
Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines the power of science and technology to passionately innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company is driving innovations that extract value from the intersection of chemical, physical and biological sciences to help address many of the world's most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, clean energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow's integrated, market-driven, industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 180 countries and in high-growth sectors such as packaging, electronics, water, coatings and agriculture. In 2014, Dow had annual sales of more than $58 billion and employed approximately 53,000 people worldwide. The Company's more than 6,000 product families are manufactured at 201 sites in 35 countries across the globe. References to "Dow" or the "Company" mean The Dow Chemical Company and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly noted. More information about Dow can be found at http://www.dow.com.

About The Resnick Sustainability Institute
The Resnick Institute is Caltech’s studio focused on the breakthroughs that will change the balance of the world’s sustainability. It marries bold creativity and deep scientific knowledge by encouraging original thinking and orthogonal ideas. The Resnick Institute works with some of the world’s top and emerging scientists – at the California Institute of Technology and beyond. Current projects at the Resnick Institute include research into energy generation, such as advanced photovoltaics, photoelectrochemical solar fuels, cellulosic biofuels, and wind energy system design; energy conversion work on batteries and fuel cells; and energy efficiency and management such as fuel efficient vehicles, green chemical synthesis, thermoelectric materials, and advanced research on electrical grid control and distribution. The Resnick Institute is also the founder of the “Resonate Award” for leading innovations in sustainability science.

For more information, visit http://resnick.caltech.edu.    

Editors, note: All trademarks and registered trademarks are those of their respective companies.
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