Updated Tue, Nov 19, 2013 9:38 am
An eminent scholar at Ohio University was inducted Thursday to the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame at the Engineers Club of Dayton for his inventions of alternative fuels and supercritical fluid technologies.
Russ-Ohio Research Scholar in Coal Syngas Utilization Sunggyu “K.B.” Lee, a renowned alternative energy and advanced materials engineer, was recognized alongside cell phone inventor Marvin Cooper and the late water-control expert Arthur Ernest Morgan.
“Dr. Lee is widely regarded as the top researcher in the United States in clean coal technology, syngas conversion to fuel, and functional polymers,” said Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin. “His work — and the influence of his publications and patents on chemical engineering — has greatly strengthened our success in fuel cell and clean coal technologies.”
Lee’s work on the development of alternative fuels and functional materials via environmentally friendly processes has advanced the field of green science and engineering.
According to a news release from OU, his ingenious use of supercritical fluid technologies — where fluids are heated or pressurized above their critical point to perform like a gas — has provided an alternative to hazardous organic solvents, changing the way chemicals and petrochemicals are manufactured.
Lee also developed processes to produce transportation fuels from syngas, or synthesis gas, that is derived from coal, biomass, natural gas, and other alternative sources. He also has led development of many multifunctional, bio-based and biodegradable polymers for a variety of industries and applications, from diapers to food packaging. In addition, Lee also contributed to the development of efficient processes that can produce value-added chemicals and oxygenates such as methanol and dimethyl ether from carbon dioxide.
The chemical engineering professor said he never dreamed he would receive such an honor.
“I am completely humbled and totally overwhelmed. Receiving this award has caused me to re-think, and delay, my retirement plan so that I can catch up to the accomplishments of the other enshrinees in the Hall of Fame,” he noted.
When Lee joined the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology in 2010 he brought with him a prestigious research unit — complete with seven semi-trucks full of research equipment and 10 graduate students from his prior institution.
Lee’s many accomplishments include more than a hundred domestic and international patents, 11 books, nine major research monographs, more than $14 million in research funding as principal investigator, and another $9 million as co-investigator. He was promoted to professor and fully endowed chair professor just eight years after receiving his Ph.D., having held his final rank for the last 26 years.
Aside from his distinguished career as a researcher and author, Lee is best-known by students as an engaging teacher who leaves an indelible mark on his students.
“Dr. Lee has a wealth of knowledge over an astonishingly wide range of topics: from supercritical fluids to polymer characterization, from catalysts to catalytic converters, and from coal gasification to the entire history of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Indians,” said Lexie Niemoeller, a recent Ph.D. graduate who moved to Ohio when Lee did, after being mentored by him from her undergraduate years at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Lee, who has advised 37 Ph.D. candidates, 56 master’s students, and 24 post-doctoral researchers, considers teaching his greatest pleasure and reward.
"My single best talent is classroom lecturing,” he said. “I love classroom teaching, especially in undergraduate core subjects,” added Lee, who has taught all 30 chemical engineering subjects.