Research Foundation News

December 17, 2018

Energy for the future: Purdue NSF-funded engineering center works on energy technology to inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University researchers are working with some of the world’s largest energy companies to create new ways to produce fuels and chemicals from United States light alkane deposits. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, these shale gas resources are believed to contain enough untapped reserves to provide the nation’s transportation fuels and chemicals for a hundred years, creating an unparalleled opportunity to revitalize the economy and build a powerful bridge to a more sustainable future.

“Our challenge is to make the best and most responsible use of these staggering resources,” said Peter Keeling, director of industry and innovation for Purdue’s Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources, or CISTAR. “This center makes it possible to take giant leaps toward new technologies in the production of fuels and chemicals by transferring our knowledge from Purdue to industry as part of an ecosystem that brings industry in close contact with cutting-edge research in academia and national labs.”

CISTAR fellows CISTAR Fellows visited Franklin Well Services near Vincennes, Indiana, during the 2018 CISTAR Fellows Institute. The Purdue University NSF-funded engineering center works on energy technology. (Image provided by CISTAR) Download image

CISTAR is a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. A video about CISTAR is available at

CISTAR’s award-winning researchers and industry partners are working to convert light hydrocarbons from shale gas deposits into chemicals and transportation fuels. The research, part of Purdue’s efforts to continue and amplify its impact on energy research and technology, could inject up to $20 billion annually into the U.S. economy.

The center’s research focuses on developing new catalysts, separation methods and process design, including modular systems that deliver cost-effective solutions for the transformation of alkane resources with major positive potential impacts on the environment, society and economy.

CISTAR is organized around four pillars to achieve success: research; industry and innovation; workforce development; and diversity.

“We are striving to revitalize the U.S. industry and its workforce through STEM research aimed at responsibly realizing the potential of shale resources,” said Fabio Ribeiro, the R. Norris and Eleanor Shreve Professor of Chemical Engineering and CISTAR director.         

The center offers a powerful value proposition by bringing together experienced academic teams of professors and graduate students from Purdue, the University of New Mexico, Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Texas at Austin. CISTAR held its semiannual meetings in May and October.

NSF will provide $19.75 million over five years for the center with an expectation to augment funding for a total of ten years. Industrial and university partners will contribute additional funding and critical resources to create an innovation engine and portfolio of technology.

The technology aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

CISTAR works closely with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization on securing intellectual property for the work being done. CISTAR is looking for additional industry partners to join the center and the 19 current industry members from some of the largest energy companies in the world.

About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University.         

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341,

Peter Keeling,

Research Foundation News

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