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Yushan Yan
Yushan Yan, an expert in electrochemical systems and sustainability at the University of Delaware’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Yushan Yan elected to National Academy of Engineering

Photo by Evan Krape, illustration by Joy Smoker

UD professor recognized for his work in electrochemical engineering

Yushan Yan, a University of Delaware engineering professor and expert in electrochemical engineering for sustainability, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

“The election of Yushan Yan to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer," UD President Dennis Assanis said. "I know the entire campus community joins me in extending our congratulations to Yushan for this with well-deserved recognition of his outstanding achievement. I am so proud of the impressive momentum of our faculty who continue to prove the very high standard of talent at the University of Delaware."

Yan marks the ninth current faculty member from the College of Engineering to receive this prestigious recognition, which he earned for “creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in separation membranes and electrochemical reaction engineering, catalysis and materials.”

“This well-deserved recognition from the National Academy of Engineers speaks to the true impact and excellence of Yushan’s contributions to the field of sustainable chemical engineering and electrochemical systems,” said Dean Levi Thompson, who was elected to the NAE in 2021. “I’m incredibly proud and honored to be a colleague of talented engineers like Yushan. This tremendous recognition showcases how faculty, students and staff at the University and the College of Engineering are helping to make the world a better place.”

Yan, the College’s Henry Belin du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is among 111 new members and 22 international members inducted into NAE this year, including Tesla’s Elon Musk. There are now 2,388 U.S. members and 310 international members of the NAE, which aims to “advance the welfare and prosperity of the nation by providing independent advice on matters involving engineering and technology, and by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and public appreciation of engineering.” Yan and other members of the newly elected class will be formally inducted during NAE’s annual meeting on Oct. 2, 2022.

“This is an incredible honor,” Yan said. “First and foremost, I want to thank my students and postdocs of the past 20-plus years who trusted me enough to join my group and taught me everything I know about electrochemical engineering, catalysis and materials. I am also grateful to my wife of 30 years for her unconditional support, my collaborators for sharing their knowledge and the various organizations for the funding they provided. I am humbled by this NAE election and I am indebted to many friends who have had more confidence in me than myself.”

The bulk of Yan’s work has focused on electrochemical systems for sustainability, or finding chemical solutions to address climate change. In the race to reach “net zero,” a term used to describe a world where industry produces no net emissions at all, innovative approaches like the work Yan is doing will be needed while industries move toward more renewable energy sources. His group’s work with fuel-cell technology ultimately led to a new family of polymers that can be used in fuel cells, green hydrogen generation and carbon capture. One of his latest projects involves using hydrogen to capture carbon dioxide from the air to help environmentally friendly fuel cells. He has also worked extensively with zeolite membranes.

Yan joined the UD faculty in 2011 and served as the founding associate dean for research and entrepreneurship at the University. He has been an inventor on more than 20 issued patents and his more than 250 publications have been cited tens of thousands of times. He also is the founder and CEO of Versogen, a Wilmington-based startup born in Yan’s lab at UD.

“Yushan is an inspiring leader in the development of electrochemical processes to solve some of the grand challenges in sustainability and energy,” said Eric Furst, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “He’s a pioneer in electrochemical reaction engineering and widely recognized for his work to analyze the performance and technoeconomics of electrochemical reactors such as fuel cells, electrolyzers and flow batteries. In recent years, he’s developed novel polymer electrolytes and electrocatalysts for world-record reactor performance and pushed forward the mechanistic understanding of electrocatalytic reactions of both fundamental and technological significance.”

Yan studied chemical physics at the University of Science and Technology of China and heterogeneous catalysis at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He received both his master’s degree and doctorate in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. Prior to UD, Yan served as the department chair at the University of California Riverside and as a senior staff engineer/project leader at AlliedSignal. His recognitions include University Scholar Professor from the University of California Riverside, Presidential Chair from the University of California, Distinguished Engineering Professor from the University of Delaware, Donald Breck Award from the International Zeolite Association, R.H. Wilhelm Award for Reaction Engineering, Braskem Award for Excellence in Materials Science and Engineering, and Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Carl Wagner Memorial Award and the Energy Technology Division Research Award from the Electrochemical Society, Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Inventors and the Electrochemical Society.

Yan joins Dean Thompson and seven other UD faculty members and emeritus faculty as NAE members: Terry Papoutsakis, Unidel Eugene du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (2018); Norm Wagner, Unidel Robert L. Pigford Chair in Chemical Engineering (2015); Babatunde Ogunnaike, William L. Friend Chair of Chemical Engineering (2012); UD President Dennis Assanis, who is also professor of mechanical engineering (2008); David L. Mills, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering (2008); Dominic Di Toro, Edward C. Davis Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (2005); and Stanley Sandler, Henry Belin du Pont Chair Emeritus of Chemical Engineering (1996).

UD alumni in the NAE include Rakesh Agrawal, Class of 1977; Kurt B. Akeley, Class of 1980; John L. Anderson, Class of 1967; Arup K. Chakraborty, Class of 1989; Morton Collins, Class of 1958; Arthur J. Coury, Class of 1962; Thomas F. Degnan Jr., Class of 1977; Richard E. Emmert, Class of 1952; Arthur L. Goldstein, Class of 1959; Teh C. Ho, Class of 1977; Rakesh K. Jain, Class of 1976; Terri L. Kelly, Class of 1983 and vice chair of the UD Board of Trustees; Isaac C. Sanchez, Class of 1969; and David F. Welch, Class of 1981.

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