Prof. Aaron M. Scurto, PhD

School of Engineering - Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
Associate Professor
Primary office:
Learned Hall
Room 4132
University of Kansas
1530 West 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045


Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Notre Dame

B.ChE., Chemical Engineering, University of Delaware

Research Interests

  • Sustainable chemistry and engineering, alternative solvents, phase equilibrium thermodynamics, biomass processing, cellulose, homogeneous catalysis, organometallic catalysis, enzyme catalysis, fermentation separations,

Selected Publications

Gilbert, W. J., Johnson, S. J., Tsau, J., Liang, J., & Scurto, A. M. (2017). Enzymatic degradation of polyacrylamide in aqueous solution with peroxidase and H2O2
. Journal of Applied Polymer Science, 134(10). DOI:10.1002/app.44560

Minnick, D. L., & Scurto, A. M. (2016). Reversible and non-reactive cellulose separations from ionic liquid mixtures with compressed carbon dioxide. Chem. Commun., 51(63), 12649-12652. DOI:10.1039/c5cc03519h

Minnick, D. L., Flores, R. A., DeStefano, M. R., & Scurto, A. M. (2016). Cellulose Solubility in Ionic Liquid Mixtures: Temperature, Cosolvent, and Antisolvent Effects. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 120(32), 7906-7919. DOI:10.1021/acs.jpcb.6b04309


  • BChE University of Delaware, 1997 (Thesis & Bioengineering concentration)
  • PhD, University of Notre Dame, 2002 (with Prof. Joan F. Brennecke
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, RWTH-Aachen, Germany, 2003 (with Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner)
  • Postdoctoral Associate, MIT, 2004 (with Prof. Alexander Klibanov)

Research Interests

Chemo-Enzymatic Catalysis - Asymmetric/Enantioselective Catalysis:

  • Organometallic Catalysis
  • Biocatalysis

Nano-scale Materials Production and Processing in Supercritical Fluids:

  • Nanocomposites for Gas Separations
  • Semi-conductor Metal removal from nano-scale lithographies

Green/Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Alternative Solvents: Supercritical Fluids & Ionic Liquids
High-Pressure Phase Behavior & Modeling

Professor Scurto's research focuses on the relationship between the solvent and catalysts or metal complexes. Emphasis is on homogeneous catalysts (soluble metal complexes or bio-catalysis/enzyme catalysts) in a variety of reactions, but primarily enantio-selective (chiral) reactions. The fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries of tomorrow will be increasingly applying both organometallic and biocatalysis for the complete synthesis of desired compounds. Understanding the limits of the individual methods and possible coordination schemes is of potential interest. Spectroscopic techniques are used to probe the molecular level interactions to interpret macro-scale results such as reaction rates, and chemo-, region- and enantio-selectivity. Understanding how the solvent affects the catalyst and reactants both in terms of catalysis and phase equilibrium thermodynamics is of utmost importance in homogeneous catalysis. Often, catalyst performance is sacrificed for ease of separation and ability to recycle the metal complex. Novel schemes are being develop for reaction/separation processes. Among the different solvents of interest are supercritical fluids such as CO2, and a new class of solvents called ionic liquids (organic salts liquid near ambient conditions). These fluids are being considered as possible organic solvent replacements due to their environmentally benign or completely nonvolatile nature. The tenets of green/sustainable chemistry and engineering are pursued to provide real alternatives to current polluting process for both existing products and technologies and to use their unique properties to develop new ones. This includes novel materials processing ideas, such as the use of compressed CO2 to remove metals from nano-scale semiconductor geometries and to create nano-composite membranes with metal complexes for enhance gas separation, e.g. hydrogen recovery. Reliable modeling of phase behavior is extremely important for the development of compressed CO2 processes.

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Scurto, A.M. Leitner, W.L. et al. Catalysis in Supercritical Fluids. In Organometallic Catalysis; Cornils, B.; Herrmann, W.A., Eds.; Wiley-VCH Publishing, Weinheim, In Press 2004.
  • Scurto, A.M.; Leitner, Melting Point Depression of Organic Ionic Solids/Liquids with Carbon Dioxide for Enhanced Catalytic Processes. Submitted to Chem. Comm. 2003.
  • Scurto, A.M.; Brennecke, J.F. High Pressure Phase Equilibrium of bDiketone Chelating Agents and Chelates in Carbon Dioxide for the in situExtraction of Metals. In Preparation for Submission to AIChE J. 2004
  • Leitner, W.; Scurto, A.M. Immobilized Organometallic Catalysis in Supercritical Fluids. In Aqueous-Phase Organometallic Catalysis: Concepts and Applications 2nd Edition; Cornils, B.; Herrmann, W.A., Eds.; Wiley-VCH Publishing, Weinheim, In Press 2004.
  • Dietz, M.L.; McAlister, D.R.; Stepinski, D.; Zalupski, P.R.; Dzielawa, J.A.; Barrans, R.E.; Hess, J.N.; Rubas, A.V.; Chiarizia, R.; Lubbers, C.; Scurto, A.M.; Brennecke, J.F.; Herlinger, A.W. Recent Progress in the Development of Supercritical Carbon Dioxide-Soluble Metal Ion Extractants: Solubility Enhancement through Silicon Functionalization. In Nuclear Waste Management: Accomplishments of the Environmental Management Science Program. Ed. T. Zachry; ACS Symposium Series; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC , In Press 2004.
  • Scurto, A. M.; Xu, G.; Brennecke, J. F; Stadtherr, M. A. Phase Behavior and Reliable Computation of Solid-Fluid Equilibrium with Cosolvents: Liquid Phase Detection. Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 2003, 42,6464-6475
  • Scurto, A. M.; Aki, S. N. V. K; Brennecke, J. F. Carbon Dioxide Induced Separation of Ionic Liquids and Water. Chem. Comm. 2003, 572-573.
  • Scurto, A. M.; Aki, S. N. V. K; Brennecke, J. F. CO2 as a Separation Switch for Ionic Liquid/Organic Mixtures. J. Amer. Chem. Soc. 2002, 124, 10276-10277.
  • Lubbers, C.; Scurto, A. M.; Brennecke, J. F. Experimental Measurement and Modeling of the Vapor-Liquid Equilibrium of Carbon Dioxide + bDiketone Chelating Agents. In Supercritical Carbon Dioxide: Separations and Processes; Gopalan, A.S; Wai, C.M.; Jacobs, H., Eds.; ACS Symposium Series 860; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 2003.
  • Scurto, A. M.; Lubbers, C.; Xu, G.; Brennecke, J. F. Experimental Measurement and Modeling of Vapor-Liquid Equilibria of Carbon Dioxide + Chloroform. Fluid Phase Equil. 2001, 190, 135-147.
  • Alvarado, G.; Sandler, S. I.; Scurto, A. M. Modeling Solid-Fluid Equilibria with a Cubic Equation of State-Gex Model. J. Supercrit. Fluids 2001, 21, 123-134.
  • Roggemann, E.; Scurto, A. M.; Brennecke, J.F. Spectroscopy, Solubility and Modeling of Cosolvent Effects on Metal Chelate Complexes in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Solutions. Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 2001, 40, 980-989.
  • Xu, G.; Scurto, A. M.; Castier, M.; Brennecke, J. F.; Stadtherr, M. A. Reliable Computation of High Pressure Solid-Fluid Equilibrium. Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 2000, 39, 1624-1636. ranes with metal complexes for enhance gas separation, e.g. hydrogen recovery. Reliable modeling of phase behavior is extremely important for the development of compressed CO2 processes.

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