Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products

Date:
June 20, 2011
Source:
Iowa State University
Summary:
The Hybrid Processing Laboratory located just inside the front door of Iowa State University's new Biorenewables Research Laboratory is increasingly busy. It's a place where researchers in biochemical and thermochemical sciences work together to develop technologies that produce biorenewable fuels and chemicals. And it's a showcase for the multidisciplinary work promoted by Iowa State's Bioeconomy Institute.

Researchers, left to right, Zhiyou Wen, DongWon Choi, Laura Jarboe and Robert C. Brown are using Iowa State University's Hybrid Processing Laboratory to mix thermochemical and biochemical technologies to produce biorenewable fuels and chemicals.
Credit: Bob Elbert/Iowa State University

Laura Jarboe pointed to a collection of test tubes in her Iowa State University laboratory.

Some of the tubes looked like they were holding very weak coffee. That meant microorganisms -- in this case, Shewanella bacteria -- were growing and biochemically converting sugars into hydrocarbons, said Jarboe, an Iowa State assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Some of the sugars in those test tubes were produced by the fast pyrolysis of biomass. That's a thermochemical process that quickly heats biomass (such as corn stalks and leaves) in the absence of oxygen to produce a liquid product known as bio-oil and a solid product called biochar. The bio-oil can be used to manufacture fuels and chemicals; the biochar can be used to enrich soil and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Iowa State's Hybrid Processing Laboratory on the first floor of the new, state-built Biorenewables Research Laboratory is all about encouraging that unique mix of biochemical and thermochemical technologies. The goal is for biologists and engineers to use the lab's incubators, reactors, gas chromatography instruments and anaerobic chambers to find new and better ways to produce biorenewable fuels and chemicals.

"Biological processes occur well below the boiling point of water, while thermal processes are usually performed hundreds of degrees higher, which makes it hard to imagine how these processes can be combined," said Robert C. Brown, an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering, the Gary and Donna Hoover Chair in Mechanical Engineering, and the Iowa Farm Bureau Director of Iowa State's Bioeconomy Institute.

"In fact, these differences in operating regimes represent one of the major advantages of hybrid processing," Brown said. "High temperatures readily break down biomass to substrates that can be fermented to desirable products."

Jarboe's research is one example. She's trying to develop bacteria that can grow and thrive in the chemicals and compounds that make up bio-oil. That way, they can ferment the sugars from bio-oil with greater efficiency and produce more biorenewable fuels or chemicals.

Another example of mixing the biochemical with the thermochemical is the work of Zhiyou Wen, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition, and Yanwen Shen, a doctoral student in his research group.

They're working to break down a bottleneck in the fermentation of synthesis gas -- a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that's produced by the partial combustion of biomass in a gasifier. The fermentation process slows when researchers dissolve the gas into a liquid that can be used by microorganisms to produce biofuels. They're looking for bioreactor technologies that boost the mass transfer of the synthesis gas without adding energy costs.

A third example is the work of DongWon Choi, a former doctoral student and post-doctoral research associate at Iowa State who's now an assistant professor of biological and environmental sciences at Texas A&M University Commerce. He continues to collaborate in the hybrid lab by working with microalgae that convert carbon dioxide into oil that can be used to produce biofuels.

That oil is currently harvested with solvents or mechanical presses. Both processes produce a lot of waste and the resulting waste management problems. Choi is using pyrolysis technology to heat the algae and convert it into jet and diesel fuels without the waste.

And the researchers say the hybrid lab's mix of people, technologies, equipment and ideas is beginning to show results.

"The hybrid lab provides enormous opportunities for performing biological-based processes for producing biofuel from thermochemically treated biomass," Wen said.

Yes, said Jarboe, "I think it is working well. This is a long process, but we're writing research proposals and papers. Everybody loves the idea of this hybrid approach. It has such a promising future; the challenge is in the collaboration."

The hybrid lab is starting to make the collaboration easier, though.

Brown said he's noticed the students who work in the hybrid lab seem to be comfortable crossing thermochemical and biochemical lines: "Just like children from different cultures often learn to communicate with one another more quickly than do their parents, graduate students seem to pick up cross disciplinary culture and language faster than their faculty advisers."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Iowa State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Iowa State University. "Hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620094424.htm>.
Iowa State University. (2011, June 20). Hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620094424.htm
Iowa State University. "Hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110620094424.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

3D Printed Instruments Make Sweet Music in Sweden

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) — Students from Lund University's Malmo Academy of Music are believed to be the world's first band to all use 3D printed instruments. The guitar, bass guitar, keyboard and drums were built by Olaf Diegel, professor of product development, who says 3D printing allows musicians to design an instrument to their exact specifications. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Chameleon Camouflage to Give Tanks Cloaking Capabilities

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Inspired by the way a chameleon changes its colour to disguise itself; scientists in Poland want to replace traditional camouflage paint with thousands of electrochromic plates that will continuously change colour to blend with its surroundings. The first PL-01 concept tank prototype will be tested within a few years, with scientists predicting that a similar technology could even be woven into the fabric of a soldiers' clothing making them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Jet Sales Lift Boeing Profit 18 Pct.

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — Strong jet demand has pushed Boeing to raise its profit forecast for the third time, but analysts were disappointed by its small cash flow. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

Internet of Things Aims to Smarten Your Life

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) — As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices are reaching consumers, developers are busy connecting them together as part of the Internet of Things. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins