Robert Butler

Chemistry Lecturer

Phone: (646) 660-6217
Location: Room 802A, 17 Lexington Ave
Website: click here


MSE: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University
PhD: Combustion Chemistry, Princeton University


Our research group focuses on the problems of pollution formation and mitigation during combustion. We are concerned about the formation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and soot that form during the burning of gasoline, diesel, biodiesel and jet fuels. The focus is on the kinetics and thermodynamics of radical chemistry in the pre-flame region where PAH soot-precursors form. Specifically we are interested in the role of cyclopentadienyl and other cyclic C5 species that are formed from oxidation of aromatics and are part of the pathway of VOCs → PAHs → Soot.

By using computer modeling, we seek the knowledge of intermediates and pathways that is needed to reduced pollutant formation. Our methods include evaluating rate and equilibrium data for the optimal kinetic and thermodynamic inputs, and performing theoretical calculations where no reliable data exists. Flux and sensitivity analyses are used to iteratively improve the model, and in selected cases to determine unknown rate constants and values of the free energy, enthalpy, entropy and specific heat.


As a lecturer, I get to teach four or more courses a semester and I get to spend a lot of time focusing on creating an educational environment where all students can excel at learning. I believe it is our ability to solve problems and explain ideas to others that decides whether we understand something. Proper preparation readies the mind to accept each new concept. By presenting the material in a dynamic way I try to encourage acceptance and further each student’s subsequent learning. Finally, by integrating concepts I can provide a ready place for the next installment of learning in the framework of knowledge.


R.G. Butler, I. Glassman (2009) "Cyclopentadiene Combustion in a Plug Flow Reactor near 1150 K". Proc. Combust. Inst. 32 (2009) 395-402.

R.G. Butler (2001). Combustion Chemistry of 1,3-Cyclopentadiene. PhD Thesis, Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.

R.G. Butler, K. Brezinsky and I. Glassman (1995). “Overcoming Surface Effects in Cyclopentadiene Combustion”. Fall Technical Meeting, Eastern States Section, The Combustion Institute, pp. 353-356.

The City University of New York