Mahdi Abu-Omar
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCSB
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Join the Science and Engineering Council of Santa Barbara's December event!

Over the past 70 years, production of plastics has risen sharply, from 2 million tons in 1950 to more than 380 million tons in 2015. Less than 7% of plastics is recycled, leaving the majority of plastics as waste that ends up in landfills or is incinerated. Some fraction ends up in rivers and oceans taking hundreds of years to degrade. The plastic waste problems represent a largely untapped opportunity for chemical upcycling. Dr. Abu-Omar's lab has developed an upcycling process that converts polyethylene (used in food packaging and grocery plastic bags) into long chain alkylaromatics that can be sulfonated to make biodegradable detergents.     



Mahdi Abu-Omar is a Professor in both the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the Chemical Engineering Department at UCSB. He holds the title of Mellichamp Professor of Green Chemistry. He has authored/co-authored nearly 200 original research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, supervised more than 40 Ph.D. students, and held faculty appointments at Purdue University and UCLA. Dr. Abu-Omar is the Founder of Spero Renewables, a clean tech company that provides cost-effective and renewable substitutes to petrochemicals ( He was elected Fellow of the AAAS in 2012 and was a Senior Fulbright Fellow at the Weizmann Institute in 2008.