Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

An integrated platform for producing biofuels from sweet sorghum bagasse

EPA Grant Number: SU836118
Title: An integrated platform for producing biofuels from sweet sorghum bagasse
Investigators: Liang, Yanna
Institution: Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Energy

Objective:

It is commonly recognized that continued use of fossil fuels is not sustainable. To maintain the sustainable development of our society, we must replace fossil fuels with those that are renewable, environmentally friendly, and domestic. Biofuels produced from lignocellulosic biomass meet these criteria perfectly. In the PI’s lab, a simple but effective pathway has been developed to produce biodiesel from sweet sorghum bagasse through a combination of pretreatment, fermentation, and in situ transesterification. However, two materials are left unused: yeast cell residues after transesterification and washed solids after pretreatment. Thus, the goal of this project is to separately convert these two materials into bio-oil through hydrothermal liquefaction. The specific objectives are:

  1. Testing the yield of bio-oil from yeast cell residues and the washed solids under different reaction conditions.
  2. Characterizing the top-three bio-oil samples (yield based) and the corresponding aqueous phases for each of the two target materials.

Approach:

To obtain the highest yield of bio-oil possible, we will liquefy yeast cell residues and the washed bagasse separately at 300 or 350ºC, with or without a catalyst. Following liquefaction, a mass balance of the material tested will be conducted and yields of bio-oil from different testing conditions will be compared. For the top-three bio-oil samples (yield based) and the corresponding aqueous phases for each of the two target materials, we will perform a series of detailed characterization. Upon finishing these analyses, we will conduct a preliminary techno-economic analysis (TEA) and life cycle analysis (LCA) to assess the project’s environmental, economic, and social benefits.

Expected Results:

Results from this project will reveal the optimal conditions for achieving maximal oil yields from the liquefaction of yeast residues and washed bagasse. The optimized conditions, such as operating temperature and presence of catalyst, can certainly be used in larger scales to produce bio-oil. In addition, this project will provide bio-oils with the best possible quality for the Phase II of this project, which aims to upgrade bio-oil from this research for generating various hydrocarbon fuels satisfying our society’s urgent needs for liquid transportation biofuels.

Supplemental Keywords:

waste to fuel, environmental education