Fluor Engineer Joins Advanced Power and Energy Program

Ashok Rao joined the Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) of the University of California as the "Chief Scientist for Power Systems" on January 1, 2004. In this position, he will be responsible for the development of energy efficient and cost effective coal and natural gas based power systems for central station plants involving fuel cells and gas turbines. He will also be involved in defining systems for converting fuels such as coal and biomass into synthesis gas that may be utilized in gas turbines and fuel cells while (1) co-producing hydrogen in support of the emerging hydrogen economy, (2) emitting zero emission of criteria pollutants, and (3) creating a stream of carbon dioxide (CO2) suitable for sequestration.

Prior to the full-time APEP appointment, Rao was employed by Fluor for twenty-five years, a world-class engineering firm, as a director in process engineering. He also held the distinguished appointment at Fluor of "senior fellow," only one of two such appointments in the entire corporation, for his expertise and intellectual strength in the area of energy systems and fuels.

Rao has worked in the industry for more than 30 years and his experience includes all phases of process/power plant development: starting from process conceptualization to process development to techno-economic feasibility studies to detailed design. He is the recipient of seven patents including the popular Humid Air Turbine (HAT) cycle. His experience has included the design and development of a variety of energy conversion processes for electric power generation using fuel cells, gas turbines, reciprocating engines, and combined cycles as well as the production of the fuels such as hydrogen, synthesis gas, Fischer-Tropsch liquids, alcohols and dimethyl ether from coal, petroleum coke, biomass, liquid hydrocarbons, and natural gas. He is expert in gasifier design and modeling, process development, analysis and scale-up of test data, evaluation of competing processes and detailed design of demonstration plants, energy conversion and minerals processing, pyrolysis, biomass conversion, calcination of minerals, and direct reduction of iron ore and red mud (in the solid phase) with hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

Professor Scott Samuelsen, director of APEP, notes, "The appointment of Dr. Rao is a significant event for APEP and adds a critical dimension of expertise from a leader in the field as APEP works to address the complex issues associated with stewardship in energy production, and the parallel need to protect the environmental quality of the earth."

Rao received the doctoral degree from the University of California in Mechanical Engineering based on pioneering research on Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Based Hybrids. He received the Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Washington State University and the Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Osmania University in India.

Contact him at arao@uci.edu.