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Xianqin Wang, a noted designer of novel catalytic systems used to enhance production of a variety of clean fuels, won the 2017 “Emerging Researcher” award for the American Chemical Society’s energy and fuels division at the organization’s national meeting in Washington, D.C.

The award recognizes “sustained and distinguished contributions” to the field of fuel chemistry. Wang, an associate professor of chemical engineering, is the first woman to win it.

She began her career working on fossil fuels, including devising ways to remove sulfur and nitrogen from crude oil to reduce emissions of air pollutants such nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide. She then became interested in new forms of clean energy such as biofuels and hydrogen-powered fuel cells, researching chemical methods, for example, to obtain hydrogen cheaply and sustainably rather than by stripping it from natural gas.

 She converts and upgrades biomass into hydrocarbons that can be used directly as gasoline or as the fuel that powers fuel cells. As one method to obtain hydrogen, she employs a process called solar water splitting, which uses solar energy to peel it away from water molecules.

Wang also researches ways to convert CO2 into useful liquid fuels.

“I’m interested in new materials and one of my specialties is nano-catalytic materials for use in energy production and environmental protection. I study the structure of materials to better understand how that correlates with useful chemical reactions, which I try to improve,” she notes, adding, “My aim is to contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment for current and future generations.”

After joining NJIT, she founded and teaches the graduate level course Sustainable Energy.