Brian Neltner is primarily focused on solving challenging problems in chemicals, energy, sustainability, and other high-impact areas such as advanced catalysts, thin film coatings, and broad systems engineering.
In the future, Brian would like to work on applying machine learning applied to chemoinformatics, in particular developing tools to identify new heterogeneous catalysts to generate a new target molecule, to improve the efficiency and yield of existing processes, and to allow the production of existing industrially important molecules from less expensive or more sustainable feedstocks.
Most recently, Brian has been applying this expertise at Visolis, where he improved the yield in producing one chemical from 20% to 97% using a reactor he designed and constructed, as well as developing analytical methods for quantifying performance. He also identified a new key target molecule and improved yields to over 60%. During this time, he led a team of five interns and one full-time employee, developed SOPs and test plans, built new analytical tools for fermentation systems to improve the ease of experimentation, and implemented design of experiment methodology to analyze results. He also managed an outside independent verification of yield results with PNNL, and assisted with writing multiple awarded Phase I and Phase II SBIR grants.
In pursuit of these goals, Brian also independently designed and implemented an electronic control system with integrated analog dimmable power controllers and thermocouples for furnace control, DC power outputs for control of valves, analog outputs and inputs for flow controller and sensor integration, and communication ports for integrating off-the-shelf digital devices such as pumps.
Core Technical Background
Brian received dual baccalaureate degrees from MIT in Physics and Materials Science and Engineering in 2005, and completed his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 2010.
At MIT, Brian worked to use microcontact lithography to produce electrostatically actuated micromirror arrays, used biological molecules to produce novel self-assembled chains and shapes from gold nanoparticles, developed new synthetic methods on a variety of nanomaterials including cerium oxide and titania, and used bioengineering techniques to improve catalysts which are now being commercialized by Siluria to manufacture chemicals from natural gas.
After finishing his Ph.D. research at MIT, he has developed instrumentation and designs for novel liquid metal batteries at Ambri resulting in one patent application, founded Navolta where he developed new coating technologies to deposit thin films using supercritical carbon dioxide under a NSF small business grant, and has worked as a consultant to develop electronics and control systems ranging from AFM feedback controllers to chemical reactor control systems.
Brian also worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and The University of Colorado as a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Alan Weimer's group. This work was focused on the Upgrading of Pyrolysis oil into a bio-oil with a low enough acid content to be compatible with current refinery technology, as well as stabilization of titania using atomic layer deposition and development of atomic layer deposition based catalysts.
Hobbies and Art
In addition to this core work in Materials Science and electronics, Brian founded the SaikoLED project to develop open source LED lighting for art projects. This art incorporates his LED lighting into joint projects with mixed media artists such as Janet Fox to achieve stunning visual effects. He also works with strobing patterns of light to introduce unique visual effects directly into the visual cortex of the viewers. Brian is also a musician, and enjoys working with electronic music, classical voice, and harmonica.
Brian is interested in quite a few non-technical pasttimes and has spent a great deal of time refining his hobbies. He practice Shotokan Karate directly under Grandmaster Kazumi Tabata and reached the rank of nidan (second degree blackbelt) in 2009. He was an instructor for the MIT Shotokan Karate Club until 2015 when he moved to Oakland CA, and was a physical education instructor at MIT. He currently works out with the Cal Karate Club. He also enjoys fires spinning using techniques derived from Shotokan Karate and Tai Chi incorporated into more traditional fire spinning techniques.
Brian is a member of Tau Epsilon Phi Fraternity, has served as a member of the board of the national fraternity, and is now the vice president of the TEP Foundation, an educational non-profit focused on providing educational resources to undergraduates across the country.
Brian was the president of the MIT Pagan Students' Group from 2003-2008, and was actively involved in the LBGT rights organization GaMIT where he coordinated the Living Pinkguide, a guide to the LBGT attitudes of residents in different residences at MIT. He was also an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, and was recognized with the Vigil Honor in the Order of the Arrow.