Auburn chemical engineer receives $1 million grant to develop renewable fuels

AUBURN – A research team in Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is finding new ways to develop renewable fuels and high-value chemicals from cellulosic biomass by revolutionizing a process originally developed in Germany in the 1920s.

Led by faculty member Mario Eden and department chair Christopher Roberts, the team recently conducted studies that demonstrate how the Fischer-Tropsch process can be modified to produce large amounts of oxygenated chemical compounds that have a high intrinsic value in the marketplace.

Eden, who is Joe T. and Billie Carole McMillan associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, received a five-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for the project, “Fuel and Oxygenate Co-Products from Biomass Fractionation and Advanced Catalytic Conversion Processes.”

Additional research on biomass separation and gasification will be conducted by Steven Taylor, chair of Auburn’s Department of Biosystems Engineering, and Sushil Adhikari, a faculty member in the department who is also a researcher in Auburn University’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts.

“USDA and President Obama are committed to producing clean energy right here at home, to not only break our dependence on foreign oil, but also boost rural economies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These projects will give us the scientific information needed to support biofuel production and create co-products that will enhance the overall value of a biobased economy.”

For more information about Eden’s research and Auburn University’s Department of Chemical Engineering go to http://www.eng.auburn.edu/users/edenmar/.

For more on the 2010 National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s sustainable bioenergy grants, go to http://www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/sus_bioenergy_awards.html.

(Written by Sally Credille.)

Contact: Sally Credille, (334) 844-3447 (src0007@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)