Richard Parnas



Ph.D., UCLA (1990)

Webcasts: Making Biodiesel Fuel at UConn

Biodiesel Fuel Conversion Experiment: Flash | QuickTime

 Current Research

  • Biofuels Production and Separations
  • Renewable Polymers and Composites
  • Interface Engineering

Professional Activities

Guest Professor: College of Chemical Engineering, Sichuan
University, 2012-present
Member: Chemistry Department, UConn, 2012 – present
: Polymer Program, UConn, 2001-present
Member,: Environmental Engineering Program, UConn, 2009-present
Symposium Chair: 6th Joint Sino-US Chemical Engineering Meeting, Beijing, November 2011.
Co-Organizer: URI/UCONN Biofuels Symposium, 2009, UCONN Biofuels Symposium 2010.
Chair: UConn Biodiesel Symposium (2006), UConn Biofuels Symposium (2007), and UCONN Sustainable Energy Symposium (2008).
Chair: Gordon Research Conference on Composites, 1999.

Current Research Group

Ph.D. Students M.S. Student High School Students
Baishali Kanjilal
Iman Noshadi
Louis Crone
Cheng Dao
Rodrigo Ortega Paula Chen
Seth Federer

Research Statement

In-situ Membrane Diagnostics for Fuel Cells
Fuel cell durability is limited by membrane degradation. Fiber optic based probes allow us to watch Nafion membranes during normal fuel cell operation. The data illustrate large temporal and spatial fluctuations in membrane water content during macroscopically steady-state operation. This indicates that the membrane is under large dynamic stresses and may point to an important contributor to degradation. The spectroscopic techniques also permit analysis of water partitioning between membrane and vapor at several temperatures, providing fundamental data for transport models necessary for design optimization.

Flow in Porous Media
Rapid measurement equipment to assess the permeability of composite reinforcements has been built. Large data sets indicate that the permeability of multi-layered materials is statistically distributed. However, the statistical distributions appear to depend strongly on the textile weave pattern used to construct the material. For example, the in-plane components of the permeability tensor are uncorrelated in some materials but highly correlated in other materials. This has strong implications for manufacturing reliability since highly correlated statistics lead to highly reproducible flow patterns during resin injection, and poorly correlated permeability statistics may lead to widely variable flow patterns making injection flows difficult to predict.

New Feedstocks for the Commodity Plastics Market
New plastics are being developed from plant protein, a renewable and biodegradable resource. Small quantities of designed molecules are added to the protein to improve the toughness by an order of magnitude without decreasing stiffness. The current challenge is stabilizing the properties of the protein based plastic. Understanding the interactions of moisture with the modified protein structure is expected to help develop the processing and formulation strategy for maximizing property stability.

UConn Biodiesel Consortium
A consortium of faculty from several colleges recently formed the UConn Biodiesel consortium. A small scale production facility has been constructed to convert all UConn waste vegetable oil produced by Dining Services to biodiesel fuel for use in the UConn bus fleet. This effort includes many undergraduate students from the Chemical Engineering and Chemistry Departments, as well as a smaller number of students from Economics and Natural Resources. Byproducts from the biodiesel production process, such as glycerol and partially converted glycerides, are being evaluated as feedstocks for the polymerization of biodegradable materials.

Previous Positions

2006-2008 Director, Chemical Engineering, University of Connecticut
2001-2010 Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, University of Connecticut
2000-2001 Guest Professor, MTM Dept, Katholieke Universiteit, Belgium
1996-2000 Composites Group Leader, Polymers Division, NIST
1990-1996 Chemical Engineer, Polymers Division, NIST
1985-1989 Research Assistant, UCLA
1984-1985 Chemical Engineer, SRI International
1982-1984 Research Assistant, UCLA
1980-1982 Project Engineer, Exxon Research & Engineering

Awards & Honors

2007 UConn Environmental Achievement Award
2007 Pioneering Nanotechnology Competition Certificate of High Merit
2007 UConn Environmental Achievement Award
2001 Katholieke Universiteit Senior Fellowship
2000 Fulbright Scholar
1999 Int. Conference on Automated Composites, Best paper
1997-1998 Programming Committee – Nat’l. Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering
1995, 1998, 2000 Society of Plastics Engineers, ANTEC Meeting, Best Paper
1993 Department of Commerce, NIST Bronze Medal
1987 and 1988 RAND – UCLA Fellowship
1987 UCLA Distinguished Scholar
1986 Fannie and John Hertz Fellowship

Recent Publications

S.Y. Li, R. Srivastava, S.L. Suib, Y. Li and R.S. Parnas, Performance of batch, fed-batch, and continuous A-B-E fermentation with pH-control, Bioresource Technol., 102, 4241–50 2011.

Y. Sharma, R.S. Parnas and B. Li, Bioenergy Production from Glycerol in Hydrogen Producing Bioreactors (HPBs) and Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs), Int. J. Hydrogen Energy, 36(6), 3853-3861, 2011.

S.Y. Li, R. Srivastava and R.S. Parnas, Study of in situ 1-butanol Pervaporation from A-B-E Fermentation Using a PDMS Composite Membrane: Validity of Solution-Diffusion Model for Pervaporative A-B-E Fermentation, Biotechnology Progress, 27(1), 111-20, 2011.

S.Y. Li, J.D. Stuart, Y. Li and R.S. Parnas, The feasibility of converting Cannabis sativa L. oil into biodiesel, Bioresource Technol., 101, 8457-60, 2010.

S.Y. Li, R. Srivastava and R.S. Parnas, Separation of 1-butanol by pervaporation using a novel PDMS/PE composite membrane, J. Membrane Sci., 363, 287–94, 2010.

S.U. Unker, M.B. Boucher, K.R. Hawley, J.D. Stuart and R.S. Parnas, Investigation into the relationship between the gravity vector and the flow vector to improve performance in two-phase continuous flow biodiesel reactor, Bioresource Technol., 101, 7389-96, 2010.

J.Dong, A.D. Asandei and R.S. Parnas, Aqueous Electrospinning of Wheat Gluten Fibers with Thiolated Additives, Polymer, 51, 3164-72, 2010.

W.A.G. McPhee, M. Boucher, J. Stuart, R.S. Parnas, M. Koslowske, T. Tao, and B.A. Wilhite, Demonstration of a Liquid-Tin Anode Solid-Oxide Fuel Cell (LTA-SOFC) Operating from Bio-diesel Fuel, Energy Fuels, 23(10), 5036–41, 2009.

P. Brooker, P. Baker, H. Kunz, L. Bonville, and R. Parnas, Effects of Heteropolyacid Addition to the Electrodes of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells, J. Electrochem. Soc., 156(11), B1317-21, 2009.

M. B. Boucher, C. Weed, N. E. Leadbeater, B. A. Wilhite, J. D. Stuart, R. S. Parnas, Pilot Scale Two-Phase Continuous Flow Biodiesel Production via Novel Laminar Flow Reactor-Separator, Energy Fuels, 23(5), 2750– 2756, 2009.


Contact Information
Phone(860) 486-9060
Mailing Address97 North Eagleville Road, Unit 3136, Storrs, CT 06269-3136
Office LocationIMS-206