Web Date: October 18, 2013
Alternative Fuels Research Garners $1 Million Prize
Some 30 years of alternative fuels and feedstocks research based on methanol, by noted University of Southern California chemistry professors George A. Olah and G. K. Surya Prakash, has been recognized with a major new award from the state of Israel. The two men have been awarded $1 million as the recipients of the inaugural Eric & Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation.
The award is part of an Israeli initiative, supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to reduce that country’s dependence on foreign oil.
Olah is a Nobel Laureate and a professor of organic chemistry. Prakash is a professor in hydrocarbon chemistry and director of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute.
“We’re all looking for alternative energy sources and fuels because petroleum is going to run out,” says Peter J. Stang, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Utah and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. “What Olah and Prakash have done is discovered a way of getting methanol easily and readily from various sources, including CO2 and methane.”
Specifically, the award recognizes Olah and Prakash’s work on the methanol economy, a proposal to use methanol to replace fossil fuels and petroleum-based feedstocks. Methanol can be produced from many sources, including natural gas, coal, and agricultural waste products. It also has the potential to be generated renewably by recycling atmospheric carbon dioxide, setting up the possibility of a carbon-neutral fuel source.
“For energy, you need very simple solutions,” Prakash says. “And the methanol economy is such a simple idea.” He points out that countries such as China and Iran have already adopted the methanol economy. “I’m glad it’s gaining traction in many places, including a technologically advanced country like Israel,” he adds.
Olah says he hopes this latest recognition will bring even more attention to the benefits of the methanol economy. Olah and Prakash will be honored during the Bloomberg Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv on Nov. 12 to 13.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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