Adjunct Faculty Member Bipin V. Vora Becomes National Academy of Inventors Fellow

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By Simon Morrow

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Illinois Institute of Technology adjunct engineering faculty member Bipin V. Vora was selected as a 2020 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) fellow for his achievements in developing and commercializing several chemical processes documented in 95 United States patents bearing his name.

Vora says one of his most significant contributions has been his work on the production of linear alkylbenzene, a raw material used to produce biodegradable laundry and household detergent.

Producing linear alkylbenzene was historically a hazardous process, using liquid hydrofluoric acid as a catalyst. Vora and his team developed a solid acid catalyst that replaced hydrofluoric acid. “It was a major environmental and safety improvement,” says Vora.

He also developed alternate routes to the production of the top two largest volume petrochemical raw materials, ethylene and propylene, which serve as the basic building blocks for many petrochemical products. Polypropylene, for example, is used in many plastic applications, including the body and bumpers of cars.  

After a 40-year career in research and development in the oil industry, Vora estimates that products made employing technologies that his team worked on are valued at about $25 billion annually.

The NAI selects fellows who have “demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.”

Vora, who was also inducted as a fellow of the National Academy of Engineering in 2018 and a foreign fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering in 2020, says that this recent recognition of his achievements has been humbling. 

“I feel honored and grateful that many people have taken part in my career,” says Vora. “There have been many people working behind the scenes that were a very important part of the puzzle to making these projects a success. Having the right people supporting me to make sure that things were done right is what made it a success, so I would say my team deserves all the credit that I’m getting.”

Vora will be inducted in a ceremony at the NAI’s 10th Annual Meeting in the fall.

Photo: Adjunct engineering faculty member Bipin V. Vora