Gaylor awarded supercritical fluids/Green Chemistry educational equipment grantGaylor-Green-Grant.jpg

Dr. Michael Gaylor, assistant professor of chemistry at Dakota State University, was recently awarded a supercritical fluids/Green Chemistry educational equipment grant valued at $35,000. The grant was awarded by Applied Separations Inc., an industry leader in environmentally friendly supercritical fluid technologies, in recognition of his achievements in developing supercritical fluid- and Green chemistry-based curricula at DSU.

“This is a distinguished accolade for our program and for DSU. It is also an exciting state-of-the-art educational equipment award that will greatly aid my continued efforts to bring our chemistry program into the 21st century by transforming it from one based on hazardous materials usage to one firmly grounded in modular technologies and Green chemistry and supercritical fluid principles and practices. Moreover, my students will benefit greatly from receiving hands-on experiences with lab technology used in top research and industry laboratories the world over,” said Dr. Gaylor. 

What is a supercritical fluid you ask? It is any substance (such as the carbon dioxide gas that we exhale and emit from our automobiles) that exists beyond its so-called critical temperature and pressure. Under these conditions, the substance is no longer distinguishable as a gas or a liquid, but instead becomes a peculiar hybrid state of matter possessing the desirable properties of both phases of matter. 

For chemists, supercritical fluids are invaluable tools in that they can easily diffuse through solid materials just like a gas, while simultaneously effectively dissolving desired materials just like a liquid solvent. Perhaps the most recognizable examples of the importance of supercritical fluids in contemporary society is the large-scale industrial use of supercritical carbon dioxide to safely decaffeinate coffees and teas, and to remove fats from “low fat” foods. Such food manufacturing processes have historically relied on enormous volumes of toxic liquid solvents, which then must be disposed of as hazardous waste, thereby compromising human and environmental health.  

As the study and practice of chemistry has evolved to rely on a plethora of similarly hazardous materials, use of supercritical fluids in teaching and research labs is becoming a priority for institutions seeking to minimize safety risks (especially for students) and waste generation. Supercritical carbon dioxide has become particularly popular in recent years, as it is non-toxic, has an easily attainable critical temperature and pressure, and new technologies now make it possible to recycle this gas virtually endlessly. In so doing, it is actually possible to operate one’s carbon emission budgets in the black. 

Dr. Gaylor was recently invited to attend the American Chemical Society’s 18th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Bethesda Maryland as an honored guest to receive the award in person during the keynote address ceremony.

Last Updated: 6/30/14