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Ken B. Anderson

Ken B. Anderson, Professor



  • B.Sc. 1984, University of Melbourne
  • Ph.D. 1989, University of Melbourne


Ken Anderson

Office: Parkinson Lab 310
Phone: 618-453-7389
Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests:

Broadly speaking most of my research focuses on the application of chemistry to the understanding of the nature and behavior of sedimentary organic materials, especially coal (and the various components of which it is composed). My research spans from fundamental science to technology development and resource analysis. Specific areas of current interest are listed below.

  1. Clean Coal Technology:  Coal is a critical component of the world’s energy infrastructure, and will almost certainly remain so for many years. However, there are significant environmental impacts associated with the utilization of coal using current technology. There is, therefore, a critical need to develop and deploy new technologies that allow us to utilize this abundant resource in a way that is less harmful to the environment. My research group has developed a unique technology called Oxidative Hydrothermal Dissolution (OHD) that allows us to directly convert coal to high value products using only oxygen and water. The process does not require expensive or potentially toxic solvents or catalysts, produces very little CO2, no gaseous sulfur or nitrogen oxides and does not release other harmful elements to the environment. Much of my current research is focused on continuing exploration and development of OHD and we have also started a company to help scale up and deploy this unique technology at fully commercial scale.
  2. Ambers and Fossil Resins:  Some plants, especially conifers, produce resins to seal wounds and deter predation by insects and herbivores. This capability is very ancient, extending back to at least the Carboniferous. These resins are highly resistant to degradation in the environment and their composition and structure is often characteristic of the plants that produce them. Hence, they can preserve a chemical record of the vegetation that was growing a particular place and point in time. This component of my research is focused on investigation the structure and composition of fossil resins from across the entire Phanerozoic, but focused most intensively on the Paleozoic with the goal of understanding when and in what group(s) did these materials arise and how their structure and composition has changed over geologic time. 
  3. Resource analysis:  Modern society is highly dependent on access to natural resources such as coal and petroleum for production of energy and for raw materials from which we manufacture an enormous array of products. In fact, in many ways, the structure of modern society is based on the assumption that we will continue to have access to these resources indefinitely. Unfortunately, these resources are finite and non-renewable. How long can we continue to utilize these resources and at what rate? In what time frame will we have to develop and deploy alternatives? These questions are critical for planners and policy makers, especially given that deploying new technologies on a large scale will require billions of dollars of investment, can often take decades and that large infrastructure projects are often expected to have life spans of half a century or more. Part of my research effort is focused on exploring techniques to allow us to forecast the availability of resources, especially energy resources like coal and petroleum in the future by analyzing historical production rates and patterns.

Selected Recent Publications:

Bray, P.S., and Anderson, K.B., 2009, Identification of Carboniferous (320 Million Years Old) Class Ic amber, Science, 326, 132-134.

Bray, P.S., and Anderson, K.B., 2008, The nature and fate of natural resins in the Geosphere XIII: A probable Pinaceous resin from the Early Cretaceous (Barremian), Isle of Wight, Geochemical Transactions, 9:3.

Lambert, J.B., Santiago-Blay, J., and Anderson, K.B., 2008, Chemical Signatures of Fossilized Resins and Recent Plant Exudates. Angewandte Chemie.

Anderson, K.B., Crelling, J.C., Kenig, F. and Huggett, W.W., 2007, An unusual low-fluorescence algal kerogen from the Canadian Arctic, International Journal of Coal Geology, 69, 144–152.

Kaelin, P.E., Huggett, W.W., and Anderson, K.B., 2006, Comparison of vitrified and unvitrified Eocene woody tissues by TMAH thermochemolysis – Implications for the early stages of the formation of vitrinite, Geochemical Transactions, 7:9.

Anderson, K.B., and Bray, W., 2006, The Amber of El Dorado. Class Ib archaeological ambers associated with Laguna Guatavita, Archaeometry, 48(4), 633–640.

Anderson, K.B., Tranter, R.S., Tang, W., Brezinsky, K., and Harding, L.B., 2004, Speciation of C6H6 isomers by GC-Matrix Isolation FTIR-MS. Journal Physical Chemistry A, 108(16), 3403 – 3405.

Anderson, K.B., 2003, Resins and amber in sediments, In: Encyclopedia of Sediments and Sedimentary Rocks, G.V. Middleton (Ed.). Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Kenig, F., Simons, D-J. H., Crich, D., Cowen, J.P., Ventura, G.T., Rehbein-Khalily, T., Brown, T.C., and Anderson, K.B., 2003, Branched aliphatic alkanes with quaternary substituted carbon atoms in modern and ancient geologic samples. Proceedings National Academy Sciences, 22, 12554-12558.

Smith, F.A., and Anderson, K.B., 2000, Characterization of organic compounds in phytoliths: Improving the resolving power of phytolith δ13C as a tool for paleoecological reconstruction of C3 and C4 grasses. In: The Phytoliths. Applications in Earth Science and Human History, Meunier J.D., Colin, F. and Faure-Denard, L. (Eds.), Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

Clifford, D.J., Hatcher, P.G., Botto, R.E., Muntean, J.V., and Anderson, K.B., 1999, The nature and fate of natural resins in the Geosphere-IX. Structure and maturation similarities of soluble and insoluble polylabdanoids isolated from Tertiary Class I resinites, Organic Geochemistry 30(7), 635-650.

Anderson, K.B., 1994, The nature and fate of natural resins in the Geosphere. IV. Middle and Upper Cretaceous amber from the Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia - Evidence for a new form of polylabdanoid resinite and revision of the classification of Class I resinites, Organic Geochemistry, 21(2), 209-212.

Anderson, K.B., and Botto, R.E., 1993, The nature and fate of natural resins in the Geosphere. III. Re-evaluation of the structure and composition of Highgate Copalite and Glessite, Organic Geochemistry 20(7), 1027-1038

Anderson, K.B., Winans, R.E., and Botto, R.E., 1992, The nature and fate of natural resins in the Geosphere. II. Identification, classification and nomenclature of resinites, Organic Geochemistry, 18(6), 829-841.

Anderson, K.B., and Winans, R.E., 1991, The nature and fate of natural resins in the Geosphere. I. Evaluation of pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry for the analysis of plant resins and resinites. Analytical Chemistry, 63, 2901-2908.