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Iowa State hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products
Date:6/19/2011

velop 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
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Contact: Robert C. Brown
rcbrown@iastate.edu
515-294-7936
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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