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ACS Award In Applied Polymer Science

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry

by Rochelle Bohaty
January 26, 2009 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 87, Issue 4

Credit: Courtesy of Benny Freeman
Credit: Courtesy of Benny Freeman

Sponsored by Eastman Chemical Co.

Next time you are in Austin, Texas, you might see Benny D. Freeman, this year's honoree, pedaling away on his bike. "Biking is probably my favorite hobby," Freeman tells C&EN. But it's mainly a weekend hobby, he notes.

During the week, Freeman spends most of his time working with students at the University of Texas, Austin, where he is the Kenneth A. Kobe & Paul D. & Betty Robertson Meek & American Petrofina Foundation Centennial Professor of Chemical Engineering.

Freeman is being honored for his pioneering work in the polymer membrane field. He views this award as a recognition and celebration of the work his students have done in his laboratory.

Freeman is known for developing the theoretical model that describes the trade-off between gas permeability and selectivity in polymeric materials. His model has become a standard in this area, according to Freeman and his colleagues.

More recently, Freeman's group introduced inorganic nanoparticles to polymer materials to create nanocomposite materials that are more permeable and more selective than the native polymer. Colleagues refer to this work, published in Science (2002, 296, 519), as "remarkable" and a "landmark."

The paper describes an innovative means to tune separation properties of glassy polymeric media through systematic manipulation of molecular packing. The data expand the portfolio of strategies to rationally manipulate permeation properties of materials, colleagues say. To date, this paper has been cited 196 times.

Freeman "leads the field through pioneering research contributions and serves the profession as no one else before him," a colleague says. Current investigations in Freeman's lab include developing new and better membranes for water desalination and natural gas purification, such as those that are more resistant to chlorine and carbon dioxide.

In addition to this honor, Freeman has received several awards for outstanding teaching and the National Science Foundation's Young Investigator Award in 1992. More recently, he received the 2008 Award for Excellence in Industrial Gases Technology from the American Institute for Chemical Engineers and the 2008 IBM Faculty Award. He served as chairman of ACS's Division of Polymeric Materials: Science & Engineering and as president of the North American Membrane Society. Currently, he is an associate editor of ACS's Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

Freeman, 47, graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1983 from North Carolina State University. He then attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated in 1988 with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Freeman was a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow in Paris and became a professor at NC State in 1989. In 2002, Freeman relocated to Austin to join UT's chemical engineering department.

Freeman will present the award address before the Division of Polymeric Materials.



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