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Chemistry Professors Elected to Prestigious Science Societies

G. K. Surya Prakash and Sri Narayan were recently lauded for their scientific research.

By Robert Perkins
June 28, 2012

G. K. Surya Prakash and Sri Narayan recently were recognized for their contributions to the field of chemistry. Parkash photo by Phillip Channing.

G. K. Surya Prakash and Sri Narayan recently were recognized for their contributions to the field of chemistry. Parkash photo by Phillip Channing.

Two stars of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute have been recognized for their ongoing achievements with elections to academic societies.

G. K. Surya Prakash, director at the institute, was elected as a fellow of the European Academy of Sciences (EURASC); Sri Narayan, research professor of chemistry, was elected as a fellow of The Electrochemical Society.

“Professors Prakash and Narayan have changed the way we approach the world’s sustainable energy crisis: Prakash through his vision of a ‘methanol economy’ and Narayan through his work on energy storage,” said Elizabeth Garrett, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Their elections to prestigious science academies honor their achievements as scholars and researchers, whose groundbreaking work transcends institutional and national boundaries.”

Prakash, also a professor of chemistry in USC Dornsife, received a letter from the president of the EURASC notifying him of the honor, which is typically reserved for Europeans, while on a trip to Spain in May.

A nonprofit, nongovernmental, international organization headquartered in Liège, Belgium, EURASC has about 650 members, with the stated goal of establishing efficient collaboration among scientists, researchers, educators, engineers and public authorities worldwide.

“I am humbled and honored,” Prakash said of the election.

He joins three other USC professors — including fellow chemistry professor George Olah, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in USC Dornsife — on the academy’s member list.

According to the letter he received, Prakash was nominated in part because of his contribution to what is now called the “methanol economy,” an approach to addressing global warming and energy shortages simultaneously by converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into methanol that can be used as a fuel source.

Prakash co-pioneered the methanol economy with Olah. As part of their ongoing research, they developed an easy-to-make material that can scrub large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air. Their results were published in the November 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Narayan, also with USC Dornsife and the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, received a call from the president of The Electrochemical Society notifying him of his election.

Prakash and Olah helped to recruit Narayan two years ago from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, following a long history of collaboration on direct methanol fuel cells.

Narayan is currently working on iron/air batteries, energy storage devices that use the chemical reaction of rusting to produce power. The idea was one that had been pioneered during the energy crisis in the 1970s and then abandoned when gas prices went back down.

“We have a joint goal to put USC on the map for energy storage, and this is the perfect time to do it,” Narayan said.

Narayan will be recognized and receive a citation at The Electrochemical Society’s 222nd meeting in Honolulu on Oct. 8.