Last week Chemical Engineering PhD student Diwaker Rana won the “Best Oral Presentation” award in the 2012 William R. Wiley Research Exposition for the category of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Rana’s advisor is Dr. Birgitte Ahring. He will receive a $500 scholarship as part of the award. Below is Rana’s topic and an abstract of his presentation.
Softwood conversion to biofuels: Green chemistry solutions to the global problems
Two of the greatest global challenges that the mankind is facing today include energy crisis (due to depleting oil resources) and global warming (due to greenhouse gas emissions). One of the approaches to handle these issues is through the conversion of abundantly available biomass into green fuels. One of the potential feedstock is Softwood as this is an abundant biomass material found in large extent within United States. The higher lignin content and crystalline structure of cellulose makes the extraction of sugars from the Softwood difficult as has been researched previously. Present study focused on maximizing the sugars recovery from the Softwood for the ethanol production. The wet oxidation pretreatment was conducted in the presence of water and oxygen at temperatures (170°C to 210°C) with residence time 5 to 30 min. The pretreated samples were further hydrolyzed with enzymes for 72 hours. This study showed promising results in terms of higher sugars conversion (> 95%) and lower sugars degradation and toxic compounds. The proposed study will offer the cost-effective green chemistry solutions to the global problems.