Navigation Links
Iowa State hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products

AMES, Iowa 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."


Contact: Robert C. Brown
Iowa State University

Related biology news :

1. NC State researchers get to root of parasite genome
2. L-1 Identity Solutions Receives $5.9 Million Drivers License Contract Expansion from the State of Mississippi
3. NC State takes lead in crime scene investigation training
4. Penn State receives new NASA astrobiology grant
5. Penn State researcher wins Entomological Society of America award
6. Paradigm Tactical Products to be Largest Distributor of Metal/Radiation Detection Wands in United States
7. Iowa State researcher develops new treatment method for canine eye diseases
8. L-1 Identity Solutions Selected by the State of New York as the Winning Bidder to Provide Enrollment Services for a Contract Estimated at Up to $250 Million
9. State fund advances titanium powder research, 9 other Iowa State projects
10. 15-state Southern obesity summit to focus on deadly epidemic
11. Montana State University researchers find gene that regulates molds resistance to drugs
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Iowa State hybrid lab combines technologies to make biorenewable fuels and products
(Date:11/26/2015)... , Nov. 26, 2015 Research and ... the "Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors - Technology and Patent ... --> --> Fingerprint ... especially in smartphones. The fingerprint sensor vendor Idex forecasts ... sensor units in mobile devices and of the fingerprint ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... YORK , Nov. 19, 2015  Although some ... market is dominated by a few companies, according to ... companies own 51% of the market share of the ... The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic s ... "The market is still controlled by one company ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , November 17, 2015 Paris ... 2015.   --> Paris from 17 ... DERMALOG, the biometrics innovation leader, has invented the first ... fingerprints on the same scanning surface. Until now two different ... Now one scanner can capture both on the same ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/1/2015)... ALEXANDRIA, Va. , Dec. 1, 2015 ... provides senior debt to life sciences and healthcare services ... senior secured term loan with MDRejuvena, Inc. ("the Company"). ... commercialization and continued development of the Company,s Rejuvaphyl™ and ... --> Rejuvaphyl is the MDRejuvena brand of high ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... Frederick, MD (PRWEB) , ... December 01, 2015 ... ... management solutions provider, announces that its best selling system laboratory animal colony management ... ezColony® Cloud today, without investing in on-site IT resources., , ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... December 01, 2015 , ... ... global meeting this month and Dr. J. Kyle Mathews will join ... includes the new single site hysterectomy. , An experienced urogynecologist, founder of Plano ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... MIAMI (PRWEB) , ... November 30, 2015 , ... ... opening of a new, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) 10000 in the Santiago Marriott. ... technologies available, and is operated by a world-class team of qualified medical researchers ...
Breaking Biology Technology: