PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University researchers have developed a catalyst that easily converts bio-based ethanol to a widely used industrial chemical, paving the way for more environmentally friendly, bio-based plastics and products.
That is one principle underlying Washington State University’s collaborative, multidisciplinary work in biofuels – work that could pave the way toward sustainable, biologically based jet fuel for the aerospace industry in the Evergreen State and around the world.
WSU is forging a course to that future through its leadership of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, a broad consortium of scientific, industrial and educational interests from throughout the Northwest. The team includes more than 30 partners, including Alaska Airlines, Weyerhaeuser, Gevo, the USDA Forest Service and the University of Washington.
With its slogan of “Wood to Wing,” and with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the five-year NARA project seeks to facilitate development of a sustainable “biojet” fuel industry using forest residuals that would typically be be burned in a pile. That means taking a comprehensive look at building a supply chain for aviation biofuel with the goal of increasing efficiency in everything from forestry operations to conversion processes.
Washington does not currently produce aviation biofuels. NARA wants to change that.
Ralph Cavalieri, associate vice president for alternative energy at WSU, says the university took a leadership role in NARA because its long land-grant tradition in agricultural research and plant science, together with its expertise in technologies to convert plant matter into fuel, provide a natural framework for addressing the industry’s future fuel needs.