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Faculty Profile - David Sikkenga

David Sikkenga, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor of Chemistry


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Dr. Sikkenga's vast experience spans more than 30 years working for BP-Amoco as a chemist. He is currently an industrial consultant in organic chemical conversions, focus on hydrocarbon formation/interconversion, oxidations, purifications, heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis. He has a passion for teaching and it has led him not only to Wheaton College but to Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, as well.

University of Illinois
Ph.D., Physical Organic Chemistry, 1976

Calvin College
B.S., Chemistry, 1972

  • Industrial Organic Chemistry—Petrochemicals

  • Teaching and Education

  •  Organic Chemistry-general and hydrocarbon and carboxylic acid related

  •  Physical Organic Chemistry related to commercial process development

  •  Polymer recycle—polyesters and polystyrene

Conversion of Polystyrene to Benzoic Acid
US Patent Application 15/783,358,  Oct 13, 2017
This is a process to oxidize (air) waste polystyrene to useful benzoic acid using a Co/Mn/Br (or other) catalyst. Currently much of the waste polystyrene ends up in landfills since recycle value is minimal.  This continuous process feeds waste polystyrene into a reactor at conditions that utilize the heat of reaction to drive the evaporation and recovery of the benzoic acid from the reactor. The benzoic acid also serves as the solvent. The non-volatile catalyst remains in the reactor and a portion of the vapor is condensed and returned to the reactor to maintain a constant reactor level. Thus, at optimal yield, only  1/8th of the carbons in the polystyrene are converted to COx while 7/8th of the carbon are upgraded to useful and purified benzoic acid.

Process for the preparation of 2,5-furan-dicarboxylic acid
US 9643945 B2, May 9, 2017
This is a process for the selective homogeneous oxidation of the side chains of di-substituted furans to the corresponding acids providing a new monomer for making polyester. The feedstock is obtained from sugar, making this a green, sustainable monomer.

Staged countercurrent oxidation
US 7485746, February 3, 2009
This is a process modification to allow an increase in the selective oxidation of p-xylene to terephthalic acid with reduced burning by providing two stages of homogeneous oxidation using Co/Mn/Br catalyst.

Process for the Production of High Purity Aromatic Carboxylic Acids Using a Benzoic Acid and Water Solvent for Oxidation and Purification
US Patent: 2008-0194866, Aug 18, 2008
This is a novel process in which benzoic acid is utilized, instead of acetic acid, for the homogeneous Co/Mn/Br catalyzed oxidation of p-xylene followed, without separation of the solvent or catalyst, with passage over a fixed bed hydrogenation catalyst to remove impurities detrimental to polymerization of the terephthalic acid.

Ethanolysis of pet to form det and oxidation thereof
WO 2007076384 A2, July 5, 2007
This is the development of a new recycle scheme for polyester in which the low grade, used (can be colored, impure) polyester is first allowed to react with ethanol to form diethylterephthalate (DET) which can be purified by distillation to recover the ethanol, ethylene glycol, as well as pure DET. The DET can subsequently be co-fed along with p-xylene to existing oxidation processes where the ethyl groups are hydrolyzed and oxidized to form acetic acid (the solvent for oxidation) leaving the terephthalic acid to be recovered with that from p-xylene. This incorporates recycle content into the terephthalic product and a bio-source of the solvent.