2021 Young Chemist Award Winner

Congratulations to our $10,000 winner: Ryan Jansonius, University of British Columbia!

Research Title: Carbon Neutral Chemical Manufacturing With an Electrochemical Membrane Reactor


The production of fuels, plastics, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals consumes 10% of the energy produced worldwide and is responsible for 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. By developing ways to produce these useful chemicals using only abundant feedstocks and renewable electricity, Ryan’s research enables ways to offset these emissions. Ryan and his team are developing a reactor called Thor that performs hydrogenation reactions using water and electricity as the only inputs. Thor produces hydrogen from water, then drives this hydrogen through a metal membrane to a separate chamber where the hydrogenation reaction occurs. This process circumvents the use of fossil-derived H2, and the natural gas heaters required for conventional thermochemical hydrogenation reactors used industrially today. The aim is to produce renewable diesel, pharmaceuticals and a host of bio-derived specialty chemicals in a way that is cleaner, safer, and cheaper than conventional methods.


Ryan is also co-founder of ThorTech, a startup that brings to market a unique membrane reactor technology that uses water and electricity to hydrogenate molecules relevant to the biofuel, pharmaceutical and specialty chemical industries.

One $2,000 runner-up prize and two $1,000 honorable mentions were awarded to Dr. Liang Feng from Northwestern University on his research on editing “genes” of metal-organic frameworks, Elizabeth Brown from Clarkson University for her work on the development of advanced oxidation methods to optimize non-thermal destruction technologies for treating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminated water and to Colby Ott from West Virginia University for his research on simultaneous detection of organic and inorganic gunshot residues using electrochemical sensors.