Ryan Lively

Faculty Council
Georgia Tech Energy Faculty
Associate Professor
(404) 894-8795
Research Area: 
Carbon Capture
Separations Technology

Dr. Lively enrolled at Georgia Tech in 2002 as an eager Chemical Engineering student and has been a Yellow Jacket at heart ever since. During his studies at Georgia Tech, Ryan worked on research projects as diverse as ab initio quantum mechanical methods to estimate molecular binding energies, fresh Georgia peach preservation, composite spinneret design, dual-layer hollow fiber membrane spinning, and sorbent-loaded fiber spinning. Ryan introduced a rapid temperature swing adsorption (RTSA) approach for post-combustion CO2 capture, which was successfully demonstrated by adapting knowledge developed in membrane science to design unique nanoscale composite adsorbent/heat exchangers.

After his Ph.D. (awarded in 2010), he spent almost 3 years as a research engineer at Algenol Biofuels, where he published 25 papers and filed two U.S. patent applications. His work at Algenol focused on developing energy-efficient liquid and vapor separation systems for downstream biofuel purification. He recently joined the faculty of the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech. His current research seeks to advance energy efficient fluid separation processes critical to the global energy infrastructure via application of chemistry-inspired materials design. In particular, his research group investigates fundamentals of adsorption and diffusion in hybrid polymeric and microporous materials to work towards rational design of fiber-based separation devices. He is a recipient of the 2013 NSF BRIGE Award and has over 25 peer-reviewed publications in the field of separations including a Perspective article in AIChE Journal.

Q: Tell us about your area of research.

My research takes a multi-scale approach–I work at a basic level on materials design and engineering to create building blocks for advanced separation systems as well as on translational approaches to enabling efficient separations.In particular, I focus on the creation of polymer/inorganic hybrid materials and how to scale these materials into usable separation devices. One approach I favor is "spinning" these hybrid materials into a hollow fiber form factor, which allows these materials to be assembled into miniaturized shell-and-tube separation devices.

Q: What drew you to this particular area of research?

I was attracted to the prospects of working at the intersection of materials science, chemistry and engineering. From a scientific perspective, it is fun to watch fiber spinning--fibers made of advanced materials go flying by at 50 m/min, and it's easy to see how scalable this approach is for the creation of miniaturized separation devices. Moreover, I knew I wanted to tackle "big" problems such as industrial energy efficiency.

Q: Where do you see the greatest potential for cost-effective clean energy breakthroughs for large-scale application?

One of the most un-tapped resources for improved energy sustainability and environmental responsibility is energy efficiency. "Energy efficiency" often conjures thoughts of home improvements and increasing the gas mileage of the transportation fleet. An oft-overlooked area is the industrial sector; 10-15% of the United States energy is used for industrial separation of materials (e.g., vacuum distillation of crude oil). Addressing this major energy consumer "hiding in plain sight" will definitely lead towards a more responsible use of current energy resources and reduce harmful emissions.

Q: What role does science and technology play in fostering collaboration amongst government, academia, and industry?

Science and technology often intersect with the purpose of improving the human condition. This basic but important goal is unifying--all three parties can support this goal and find "win-win" interactions with each other that also satisfy secondary goals (e.g., sustainability, education, profit). As such, science and technology can act as a catalyst for contact, interaction and cooperation for these three groups.

Q: If you weren't teaching or conducting research, what would you be doing?

I think I would spend more time with my significant other, play and arrange music more often, travel and play as much ping-pong as humanly possible.

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