Auburn engineers awarded more than $600,000 from governor’s Alabama Innovation Fund

AUBURN UNIVERSITY– Three Auburn University faculty members in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and one in the College of Agriculture have been awarded grants totaling more than $600,000 through the Alabama Innovation Fund as part of Accelerate Alabama, the state’s long-term plan to prioritize economic development.

Oladiran Fasina, an agriculture faculty member in the Department of Biosystems Engineering, and engineering faculty members Weikuan Yu in the Department of Computer Science and Software, Bruce Tatarchuk in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Marko Hakovirta, director of the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering, are among 15 first-round grant recipients chosen as part of Gov. Robert Bentley’s efforts to further prioritize innovation and entrepreneurship in the Education Trust Fund budget.

“All of their projects indicate the high level of accomplishments of faculty in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering,” said engineering dean Chris Roberts. “I feel that their efforts will ultimately lead to greater economic development not only in the state of Alabama but throughout the region.”

The Alabama Innovation Fund includes the Renewal Program, which distributes grants to public universities based on each university’s federally financed research and development expenditures as reported over the preceding three years by the National Science Foundation, while the Research Program stimulates economic development.

Fasina received $204,351 for his biosystems engineering project, “Naval Stores Chemicals Productions from Southern Forests by Innovative Treating,” as part of the Renewal Program funding. Through collaborations with Auburn University’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, Fasina’s team will work to develop new collection and processing systems of chemical byproducts and products from Southern pine trees, called naval stores, which are less labor-intensive than traditional tapping and collecting methods and use existing timber-harvesting equipment with minimal modifications.

Tatarchuk received $200,020 for his chemical engineering project, “Ultra High Thermal Conductivity Catalyst Carriers,” as part of the Research Program funding. His team is working to commercialize high thermal conductivity catalyst carriers and pilot test them for reactions that can convert relatively small volumes of coal, biomass or natural gas into useful fuels and chemicals.

Hakovirta received $142,835 for his chemical engineering project, “Intelligent Control Solution for Smart Manufacturing and Energy Reduction in Pulp Mills,” as part of the Research Program funding. Through collaboration among Auburn University’s Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering, R.E. Hodges LLC and Tuskegee University, the project could create considerable energy savings for pulp mills, improving their competitiveness as well as helping to retain and grow jobs in Alabama and the region.

Yu received $68,797 for his computer science and software engineering project, “Smart Network Backplane for Fast Analytics of Big Data,” as part of the Renewal Program funding. He is working with Kai Chang, department chair of computer science and software engineering, to accelerate network-based data movement for the analysis of big data in various computing environments.

(Written by Sally Credille.)

Contact: Sally Credille, College of Engineering, (334) 844-3447 (src0007@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)