, the R.L. McCann Associate Professor of chemical engineering, has been chosen to receive the 2007 Outstanding Young Researcher Award of the CAST (Computing and Systems Technology) Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
The award recognizes individuals under the age of 40 for contributions to the literature of chemical engineering computing and systems technology.
Kothare, who is co-director of the Center for Chemical Process Modeling and Control
, develops tiny, often microchip-sized engineering systems and studies issues related to the control of such miniature processes. His work has applications in hydrogen microreactors, information technology, implantable biomedical devices, and military technology.
Kothare’s students have gone on to research and teaching careers in a variety of fields related to chemical and controls engineering.
The control of engineering systems, from oil refineries to fuel cells to microchemical systems, is an anonymous art—up to a point, says Kothare.
“If a system works as it should, no one ever thinks about control,” says Kothare, who joined the faculty in 1998. “If a system fails, the first person to be blamed is the control engineer.”
Kothare and his students have practiced the art of control in a variety of venues. They have developed a microreactor based on a silicon chip that uses commercial catalysts to reform methanol for hydrogen production.
Several years ago, Kothare began a collaboration with ADCUS Inc., a semiconductor design company, to embed Model Predictive Control technologies in a system-on-a-chip framework. Their goal is to download an entire computer control software program onto a chip.
The applications of this project range from improved consumer information-technology devices such as iPods and CD drive controllers to implantable biomedical devices, including an insulin-delivery device that uses an optical sensor to determine optimal dosages.
Kothare also has a contract with General Dynamics to investigate the control system for the gun and gun turret on a military tank.
Just as impressive as his research is Kothare’s legacy as a teacher. Eight students have completed Ph.D.s with Kothare. One is a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard’s FAS (Faculty of Arts and Sciences) Center for Systems Biology. Another works at the Xerox Research Unit at the Palo Alto Research Center, while a third teaches process control at Kuwait University. A fourth former student develops control systems for GE, while a fifth works on control of polymerization reactors for petrochemical applications at Exxon Mobil.
Kothare’s most recent Ph.D. graduate works with Bayer Corp. on the commercializing of microreactor technology.
Kothare was named a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
, in 2006, an uncommon distinction for a chemical engineer. He is a member of the editorial boards of IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control
, which are the top two journals in the field of automatic control.