Rakesh Agrawal, Purdue University
As a practicing chemical engineer for 24 years at Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (APCI), Rakesh Agrawal’s extraordinary record of innovative contributions have impacted a wide array of U.S. critical industries of natural gas liquefaction, electronic component manufacturing, cryogenic processing and gas separation. With 115 U.S. and nearly 500 foreign patents, Agrawal holds the most patents in APCI’s 69-year history. His insights and simplifications have led to large energy efficiency gains and to greatly reduced manufacturing costs. Over 100 plants with a total of capital investment of many billions of dollars incorporate his inventions and have repositioned parts of the U.S. manufacturing sector for world-wide competitiveness.
Agrawal led the development of the APXTM process for natural gas liquefaction that more than doubles the production from a single train. Agrawal has helped preserve U.S. dominance in this important energy field.
Agrawal invented low-cost and efficient Column-PlusTM and Double Column-PlusTM ultra high purity (UHP) nitrogen and UHP liquid oxygen processes that reduce product impurities to less than one-part per billion. Nineteen plants around the globe use these technologies to support multibillion dollar corporations such as Intel, AMD, Motorola, Texas Instruments, and IBM.
Agrawal’s gas liquefaction and gas separation processes have become cryogenic industry standards. These inventions will be crucial for U.S. competitiveness to capture CO2 from future coal power plants and to supply H2 to power fuel cells.
Much of Agrawal’s current research at Purdue University focuses on energy intensive separations and a “solar economy” to prepare for a fossil fuel-deprived world. He has identified and is developing a promising new method to produce liquid fuel for transportation from available waste biomass.
Several fundamental advances by Agrawal in the separations field have wide industrial applications with a huge energy saving potential. For his process innovations Agrawal has won several awards and was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. (Photo from White House ceremony courtesy of Ryan K. Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation.)