Development of Environmentally Benign Energy Technologies

Earth & Environmental Engineering Department (HKSM)

Columbia University, New York, N.Y. 10027


The confluence of natural and human driven events have shown how acutely sensitive the world, and in particular the United States, is to energy supply and security.  Furthermore, if we consider where the world stands today in terms of energy use and where it will be in 100 years, there is a significant challenge to meet the expected demand in a more sustainable way (i.e. CO2-nuetral, efficient resource utilization, minimization of waste, etc.).  Therefore, a primary objective must be to produce energy through the advancement of technologies that use both conventional and alternative sources in the most efficient way.  To achieve this goal, a fundamental understanding of the underlying mechanisms and processes is necessary.

This presentation will highlight results from current research in the Combustion and Catalysis Laboratory at Columbia University.  It will focus on chemical kinetic and mechanistic investigations of the thermal and catalytic conversion of carbon compounds. For example, aspects of fuel reforming of conventional fuels and conversion of greenhouse gases (CO2 & CH4) to useful chemicals will be detailed.  Results from novel reactor systems that avoid equilibrium limitations to gasification processes that incorporate CO2 as a reactive media that efficiently convert solid fuel such as biomass as municipal solid waste (MSW) to synthesis gas will also be presented.  Finally a newly developed technique, adapted from the homogenous kinetic research field, to probe the intrinsic surface kinetic processes of industrially used catalytic reactors at practical operating conditions will be discussed.



Marco J. Castaldi

Marco J. Castaldi received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles under Prof. Selim Senkan.  There he developed rapid data collection techniques for kinetic evaluation on premixed flames and built a time-of-flight mass spectrometer using Resonance Enhanced Multi-Photon Ionization (REMPI) for rapid, sensitive detection of reaction effluents.  Upon graduation from UCLA, Dr. Castaldi joined Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI) where he has co-invented two major innovations in the field of engine technology using catalytic reactors.  Dr. Castaldi has been actively involved in science and engineering education since college graduation and was an adjunct faculty member at Manhattan College and Fairfield University while working in industry.

Since joining Columbia University in 2004, Dr. Castaldi has developed a prolific research effort that utilizes CO2 in thermal conversion processes both catalytically and non-catalytically.  He has established and maintained a research group of approximately 12 people (9 students and 3 post-docs), has raised $3 MM and published 45 peer-reviewed research articles.  Dr. Castaldi has been instrumental in configuring Earth & Environmental Engineering's curriculum and rejuvenating the department which has gone from 3 to 36 undergraduate students.  He has developed an undergraduate required core course, combustion processes course, two catalysis courses and a hands-on two semester required laboratory.  Dr. Castaldi has been actively engaged in activities to promote community outreach and advancement, particularly in conjunction with Dr. Jack McGourty, SEAS Dean's office, and the Hayden Program.

These efforts have led to Dr. Castaldi being selected for the SEAS Distinguished Faculty Teachers Award in 2006 and the International Precious Metals Institute Student Advisor Award in 2009, the Columbia University Presidential List of 100 Prestigious Faculty in 2008 and the National Science Foundation's CAREER award in 2009.  In addition, Dr. Castaldi has been nominated to represent Columbia University for the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award in 2006 and for the Society of Automotive Engineers' Max Bentele Award in 2005.

Dr. Castaldi is the Director of Experimental Research for an internationally funded organization that addresses energy generation from wastes and is recognized as leading the foremost research group on chemical kinetics of converting wastes to energy.   Dr. Castaldi's research is to understand the fundamental reaction sequences and their associated kinetic parameters and is the sure way to provide the requisite capability to explore and investigate new technologies while improving existing ones that will enable society to continue to develop with minimal impact on the environment.


Refreshments at 11:45 am
Courtesy of IAMDN and REI Host: Teddy Asefa

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