"These CAREER grants are incredibly prestigious. This grant recognizes the value of this sort of inquiry, and it places research and education in equal priority," he says.
White's research looks at the fluid physics of liquefied biomass, a key component to making biomass a viable alternative to fossil-based fuels. Biomass waste agriculture, from manure to corn stalks must be liquefied and refined in order to be useful as a fuel. Biomass liquefaction produces a slurry, neither solid nor liquid. "I want to understand how these slurries flow, so we can pump them from one place to another," White says. He notes that while replacing foreign oil with biomass the United States has set a goal of 30 percent enhances energy security, sustainability, and environmental stewardship, the low density of biomass means that 250,000 trucks daily would need to transport biomass from its origin usually a farm to a biorefinery.
The logistically attractive alternative, liquefying biomass at the farm then pumping it to a centralized refinery, is complicated by the unique properties of slurry as a fluid. "It can behave more like toothpaste than water," White says. "I'm trying to understand the rheology of liquefied biomass, the relationship between applied stress and flow."
White, who calls the CAREER grant "a really big deal for me and a big deal for my career," will use the NSF funding to support a graduate student working with him and to develop instrumentation and techniques that will transfer to other opaque fluids, like blood or oil.
|Contact: Beth Potier|
University of New Hampshire