Professor Adel F. Sarofim Passed Away Dec. 4, 2011

Dec. 14, 2011

It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the passing of Professor Adel Fares Sarofim on December 4, 2011. Professor Sarofim has been the Chair of the International Advisory Committee of the Combustion Energy Frontier Research Center since its founding in August, 2009.

Professor Sarofim was born on October 21, 1934 in Cairo, Egypt. He received a B.A. in chemistry from Oxford University in 1955, an S.M. in chemical engineering practice in 1957 from MIT, and a ScD. in chemical engineering in 1965, also from MIT. He joined the faculty of MIT after graduation, becoming the Lammot DuPont Professor of Chemical Engineering at 1989.  In 1996 he moved to the University of Utah as the Presidential Professor and Co-Director of the Utah Clean Coal Program.

Professor Sarofim was an extraordinary scientist, gentleman, human being, mentor and friend. He authored and co-authored over 200 papers covering the diverse subjects of radioactive heat transfer, furnace design, circulation patterns in glass melts, the freeze process for desalination, nitric oxide formation in combustion systems, combustion generated aerosols, soot and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon formation, and the characterization of carbon structure and reactivity. For his research contributions, he received more than a dozen international prizes related to engineering and environmental science, including the Sir Alfred Egerton Gold Medal from the Combustion Institute in 1984; the Kuwait Prize for Petrochemical Engineering in 1983; the Walter Ahlström Environmental Prize of the Finnish Academies of Technology in 1993; the Senior Thermal Engineering and the Towend-BCURA Awards of the Institute of Energy in 1994; the University of Pittsburgh's 1995 Award for Innovation in Coal Conversion; the U.S. Department of Energy's 1996 Homer H. Lowry Award in Fossil Energy; the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' 1996 Percy Nicholls Award; the 1998 Lawrence K. Cecil Award of the Environmental Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and an honorary doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Naples “Federico II” in 1998. He was the Hoyt C. Hottel Lecturer at the 21st International Combustion Symposium in 1986 and the Lacey Lecturer at the California Institute of Technology in 1987. Dr. Sarofim was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2003 “for advancing our understanding of the mechanisms and modeling of processes that control radiation in and pollution emission from combustors.” 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 played an important role in the development of many combustion researchers, particularly junior faculty, not just at his own institution but across the world. “Although he had already left MIT for Utah, Professor Sarofim helped recruit me to join the MIT chemical engineering faculty,” said William Green, a Principal Investigator of the CEFRC and the Hottel Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, “and then at several crucial points he provided advice and important letters of support. It was difficult starting as an assistant professor in the field of combustion during the 1990’s, when there was not much interest in energy, but his support and encouragement helped me succeed. And I know I am not the only one he supported in this way. By doing this, he helped the field of combustion continue to develop talented young faculty through a difficult period.”

“Professor Sarofim was a giant in the combustion community,” added C. K. Law, Director of the CEFRC, “his technical contributions to combustion science and technology was singularly important, and he was immensely admired and respected by his colleagues for his warm and encouraging personality. He has provided critical guidance during the formative stage of the CEFRC in the past couple of years. We will miss his leadership.” 

In addition to his wife, the former Mary Ellen Crowe, Dr. Sarofim is survived by his son Dr. Marcus C. Sarofim of Washington, DC, sister Lola Beck of Virginia Beach, brother Nabil Sarofim of Dale City, and sister Nabila Harris of London, UK.