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July 17, 2006

Mark Holtzapple Wins Sigma Xi's First Walston Chubb Award

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC -- How would you like to drive 1,000 miles between fill-ups and 50,000 to 100,000 between oil changes? Wouldn't it be great to have an engine so durable that, after a lifetime of driving, you could still pass it on confidently to your grandchildren?

The winner of Sigma Xi's first Walston Chubb Award for Innovation is working on just such an engine. Chemical engineering professor Mark T. Holtzapple at Texas A&M University is known for his creativity, especially in the realm of new technologies.

He will receive Sigma Xi's newest award during the Society's Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, set for November 2-5 in Detroit. His Chubb Award Lecture is bound to go over big in Motor City.

Holtzapple's research on super-efficient engines and converting biomass to cleaner-burning fuels holds great promise. The MixAlco process he developed converts everything from garbage to sewage sludge to sorghum and other crops into mixed alcohols that can be used as fuel.

In theory, his StarRotor engine, now under development, could be as much as 60 percent efficient—two to four times more efficient than today's conventional internal combustion engines. And it will be able to run on a variety of fuels, such as alcohol, diesel or even olive oil.

"The StarRotor engine produces almost no pollution," said Holtzapple, whose focus on every project is minimizing damage to the environment. "I really believe this is the engine we've all been waiting for.

"Manufacturers tell us they see a lot of 'paper motors,'" he continued, "meaning that they look good as a design, but we'll soon have the data to back it, then we can move forward."

Born in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1956, Holtzapple received his B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After serving in the U.S. Army, he came to Texas A&M as an assistant professor in 1986.

He has won nearly every major teaching award the university offers and wrote a freshman-level textbook, Foundations of Engineering (with W.D. Reece), to excite students about engineering and to help lay a solid foundation for their future studies.

He is now a full professor, with 26 issued patents and numerous pending patents. In addition to engines and renewable energy resources, his research interests include space life support, air conditioning/refrigeration, water desalination and food processing.

Among other honors, Holtzapple has received the Texas A&M Ingenuity Award and the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Chemical Society.

But he is probably more familiar to many College Station residents for playing the French horn in the local symphony orchestra for almost 18 years. He and his wife, Carol, have three sons.


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