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Adel Sarofim

Adel Sarofim

The University of Utah's Chemical Engineering Department is accepting donations in honor of Adel for a Distinguished Lecture Series. You can use the following link and indicate that it in honor of Adel.

MIT is also accepting donations in honor of Adel. Details can be found at: Adel F. Sarofim (1962) Fund

Presidential Professor Adel Sarofim passed away December 4, 2011, in Virginia. His 50+ year academic career began at Oxford University, UK, where he received a Chemistry BA in 1955. After Oxford, he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a Chemical Engineering Practice SM in 1957 and Chemical Engineering ScD in 1962. His research advisor was Hoyt C. Hottel, and together they made important and lasting contributions to the field of radiation heat transfer, as evidence by over 1200 citations of their book, Radiative Heat Transfer, published in 1967. He started his professional career in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT in 1958 as an instructor. Adel became an Assistant Professor in 1961 and obtained the rank of Professor in 1972. From 1989 until 1996 he was the Lammot DuPont Professor of Chemical Engineering. In 1996 he was appointed as Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering and left MIT for Utah.

That year, 1996, Adel became a Senior Technical Advisor for Reaction Engineering International (REI, Salt Lake City, UT), and joined the faculty in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah as Presidential Professor in 1997. The rank of Presidential Professor "is reserved for selected individuals whose achievements exemplify the highest goals of scholarship as demonstrated by recognition accorded to them from peers with national and international stature, and whose record includes evidence of a high dedication to teaching." Adel was one of the co-founders of REI, playing an important role in REI business for over twenty years and serving on the REI Board of Directors for the past 10 years. He served as a general consultant for REI and its customers in areas related to industrial combustion processes and R&D for the next-generation combustion systems. He was active in these positions at the time of his death.

Professor Sarofim's work encompassed, not only radiative heat transfer, but many important areas of combustion including: NOx formation in combustion systems; furnace design; circulation patterns in glass melts; combustion-generated aerosols; soot and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon formation; the characterization of carbon structure and reactivity; mercury emissions from coal systems; and health effects from fine particles. A particular focus was on energy and the environment and the interdisciplinary research needed to address these issues. As such, at MIT he served on three interdisciplinary research center steering committees: the Hazardous Substances Group, the Energy Laboratory and the Center for Environmental Health Sciences. He was involved with MIT's 10-year EPA Center for Airborne Toxics (1992-2002). In September 1997 the University of Utah was awarded a DOE, ASCI center, the Center for the Simulation of Accidental Fires and Explosions (C-SAFE). Over C-SAFE's 15-year history, Adel was a key researcher in the Validation Group, contributing his expertise to the center's studies on soot formation and oxidation. For the past 5 years Professor Sarofim served as the Associate Director for Research for the Institute for Clean and Secure Energy (ICSE) at the University of Utah. An ICSE focus is on clean coal and carbon capture technologies. At the time of his death he was serving on the Advisory Board for ICSE.

Adel Sarofim. Sept 1991.
Adel Sarofim. Sept 1991. Image courtesy MIT Museum.

Adel always said the best indication of scholarship was students and publications. Over the years, he published over 350 peer-reviewed papers and documents, which have almost 5000 citations. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he supervised and mentored over 80 PhD students, many of whom currently hold prestigious academic, industrial, and governmental positions.

Professor Sarofim received numerous awards for his work including:

  • Kuwait Prize for Petrochemical Engineering (1983)
  • Sir Alfred Egerton Gold Medal from the Combustion Institute (1984)
  • Walter Ahlstrom Environmental Prize of the Finnish Academies of Technology (1993)
  • Senior Thermal Engineering and the Towend-BCURA Awards of the Institute of Energy (1994)
  • University of Pittsburgh Award for Innovation in Coal Conversion (1995)
  • US Department of Energy Homer H. Lowry Award in Fossil Energy (1996)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Fuels and Combustion Technology Division, Percy Nicholls Award (1996)
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Environmental Division, Lawrence K. Cecil Award (1998)
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Energy Systems Award (2000)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers, George Westinghouse Gold Medal (2004)

In particular, his 1996 US DOE Homer H. Lowry Award citation reflects well the sentiments of his colleagues, students and friends: "Adel Sarofim is a compassionate human being who inspires students and colleagues, and who contributes significantly across the full spectrum from fundamental science through real-world design concepts."

Sarofim, Longwell, and Ritrievi in the lab.
Sarofim, Longwell, and Ritrievi in the lab. Image courtesy MIT Museum.

In 2003, Professor Sarofim was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, joining the ranks of the "most accomplished engineers". His election citation reads: "For advancing our understanding of the mechanisms and modeling of processes that control radiation in and pollutant emissions from combustors ."

Professor Sarofim had many colleagues all over the world including those who visited in his research group at MIT and the University of Utah and those he visited over the course of his career: University of Naples "Federico II" (1983 and 1974; honorary doctorate in chemical engineering, 1998); Sheffield University (1971); and California Institute of Technology (1979; Lacey Lecturer, 1987). Adel was a collaboration "builder", and as a result of this international recognition, his colleagues at the University of Utah developed, either directly or indirectly, friendships and collaborations with researchers throughout the world, e.g. Italy, Hungary, Colombia, China, Germany, United Kingdom.

In addition to Adel's tremendous scientific and engineering contributions, his mentorship, his collegial nature, and, as one colleague stated, his "natural gentleness", touched hundreds of individuals in our academic, industrial, and governmental arenas. Continuing with my colleague's statement, "Perhaps it is for (these) reason(s) we are all particularly saddened by this loss, beyond that of a prominent colleague." Adel Sarofim's mentorship, wit, wisdom, and friendship were truly his most important contributions to those of us who knew him.