Aether Expands Research and Development Organization; Appoints Technology Experts to Key Leadership Roles

Press Release
Mar 2024 Rn D Team Additions

CHICAGO, Illinois, Mar. 11, 2024Aether Fuels (Aether), an advanced climate technology company, today announced that it has appointed three experts to key technology leadership roles in its research and development (R&D) organization. Elie Fayad, Ph.D. joins as Head of R&D; Richard Zhang, Ph.D. as Head of Catalyst R&D, and Xiaodong Zhan, Ph.D. as Head of Process R&D.

These leaders will work to advance the commercial deployment of Aether’s technology solution to produce sustainable fuels economically and at scale. These fuels will be used by the aviation and ocean shipping industries to achieve net-zero emissions.

The new experts bring exceptional knowledge and skills to grow Aether’s R&D organization. Leveraging their extensive R&D-to-commercialization experience in catalyst design, manufacturing, and process development, they will support Aether’s scale-up strategy by implementing the innovation vision, developing the roadmap, extending the pilot facility, and cultivating partnerships. They are based at Aether’s R&D center in Illinois.

“Elie, Richard and Xiaodong are skilled leaders with deep roots in the energy industry and a record of turning innovative technologies into market solutions,” said Aether’s CEO, Conor Madigan. “Fast, agile, and experienced, they land ready to build a world-class R&D organization to further develop and refine the technology recently licensed from GTI Energy by Aether. They strengthen our growing team of business and technology leaders, and we are thrilled to welcome them on board.”

Aether’s New R&D Leaders

Elie Fayad, Ph.D., Head of R&D

Elie will oversee, manage, and grow Aether’s team of R&D scientists and engineers. In addition to directing all aspects of R&D, he will develop the company’s intellectual property (IP) portfolio, cultivate global partnerships, and promote Aether’s technology solution to key stakeholders.

He joined Aether from Honeywell UOP where he most recently led the company’s naphtha and aromatics R&D portfolio. With particular expertise in gas catalysis technologies, his global career focused on shaping effective strategies and building strong teams to develop and commercialize differentiated and innovative solutions. He holds a Ph.D. in Bioscience Engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium and IFP-Lyon, France.

Richard Zhang, Ph.D., Head of Catalyst R&D

Richard will build Aether’s catalyst infrastructure and direct all activities related to characterizing, developing, scaling, and deploying novel catalysts.

Before Aether, Richard spent more than a decade at Honeywell UOP as an R&D catalyst leader. He brings 25+ years of experience formulating, characterizing, and deploying novel catalysts in the oil and gas industry. His particular expertise is heterogeneous catalysts. Earlier roles included positions with Akzo Nobel and Advanced Refining Technologies (a Chevron-W.R. Grace joint venture) where he helped guide the development and implementation of catalyst solutions for specialty chemical, refining and petrochemical processes. Richard holds a Ph.D. in catalysis from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

Xiaodong Zhan, Ph.D., Head of Process R&D

Xiaodong will drive the characterization, development, scale-up, and deployment of Aether’s novel reactor and process technologies.

Most recently he led Kaidi’s Fisher-Tropsch (FT) division. During his 25-year career he has focused on FT synthesis using a variety of feedstocks, including natural gas and biomass. He began his career at the Center for Applied Energy Research at the University of Kentucky focusing on novel FT technology development. After that he joined Syntroleum in Oklahoma, where he continued developing novel FT technologies. He holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Auburn University in Alabama.

Aether will be present at the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference in Washington DC this week where CEO Conor Madigan will share details on the company’s technology in a presentation at the Hot Technologies Summit on Thursday, March 14th.

About Aether Fuels: Aether Fuels envisions a net-zero world enabled by its breakthrough sustainable liquid fuel production technology. We are developing highly scalable solutions that dramatically improve the unit economics of producing sustainable fuels for aviation and ocean shipping. Established in 2022 as a spin-out of Xora Innovation, a deep-tech early-stage investment platform of Temasek, we maintain principal offices in the U.S. and Singapore. For more information, visit or follow us on LinkedIn.


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