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The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

New catalyst paves way for bio-based plastics, chemicals

New catalyst paves way for bio-based plastics, chemicals

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.

The researchers have published a paper online describing the catalyst in the Journal of the American Chemical Society ( and have been granted a U.S. patent.

View full story at WSU News

Plant-based jet fuel: WSU research takes off

Xiao Zhang's plant-based biofuel research

Today’s synergy is tomorrow’s energy.

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.

Read entire article about plant-based jet fuel at The Seattle Times

Greg Collinge receives National Science Foundation Research Fellowship

Greg Collinge

Greg Collinge, graduate student and ARCS scholar, who works with professor Jean-Sabin McEwen in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering conducting research in computational catalytic chemistry was recently awarded a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship.

The researchers develop atom-scale models of catalysts and reactions to better understand how they work. Catalysts are used in many chemical processes, including biofuels, plastics and hydrogen production. Collinge is working specifically to improve the Fischer-Tropsch reaction, a process to create chemicals and fuels from carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

View full article at WSU News

Aerosol, air pollution pioneer David Ensor receives WSU Alumni Achievement Award

Jim Petersen, David Ensor, and Roger McClellan

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – David S. Ensor, retired civil and chemical engineer, was honored April 11 with the Washington State University Alumni Association’s Alumni Achievement Award for internationally recognized contributions to aerosol science that have helped protect workers and the public from potential air pollution hazards.

His career accomplishments have included: methods to characterize emissions from coal-fired power plants; technology to control ultra-fine airborne contaminants of semi-conductor chips; participation in government-private sector-academic efforts to detect and limit environmental threats; and innovative approaches to characterizing nanomaterials.

David Ensor speaking
David Ensor speaking at awards ceremony

Ensor retired in 2014 as a distinguished fellow, emeritus, of RTI International (formerly Research Triangle Institute), a nonprofit organization that provides research and technical services. He managed programs in nanotechnology, aerosol research, filtration, air pollution control technology, particle sampling and characterization, indoor air quality, pollution prevention, exposure research, surface cleaning, protective garments, microcontamination control, instrumentation development and test methods development.

After earning a bachelor of science degree at WSU in chemical engineering in 1963, he earned a master’s in chemical engineering and Ph.D. in civil engineering at the University of Washington and determined to pursue a career in environmental engineering.

Ensor has been a member of the WSU Alumni Association since 1990. In 2010, he was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of WSU’s Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. He and his wife have been presidents associates of the WSU Foundation since 2003 and in 2014 were recognized by the foundation as benefactors of WSU.

David Ensor with WSU Voiland School faculty member Nehal Abu-Lail, left, and student
David Ensor with WSU Voiland School faculty member Nehal Abu-Lail, left, and student

Ensor earned a 2014 Board of Directors Award from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology for contributions to developing international standards and the 2009 James Mildon Award from the institute for nanotechnology standardization. He was recipient of eight awards, 1995-2012, from RTI for exemplary service. He received the Hammer Award from the White House during the Clinton administration and the Meritorious Service Award from the American National Standards Institute.

He has several patents, almost 200 publications and is a founding editor-in-chief of Aerosol Science and Technology journal.

The WSUAA Alumni Achievement Award was created in 1970 by the WSUAA Board of Directors to recognize alumni who have given outstanding service to WSU and made contributions to their professions and communities. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association. Of an estimated 250,000 students who have attended WSU, Ensor is the 523rd Alumni Achievement Award recipient.

View full article at WSU News

View article about award at RTI

WSU bioengineering students take 1st place at health product contest

Emily Willard and Katherine Brandenstein of Engage

UPDATE: April 28, 2016 – “Engage,” founded by Brandenstein and Willard, wins $15,000 in WSU Business Plan Competition

Two Washington State University bioengineering students won first place and $10,000 in the inaugural, regional Health Innovation Challenge (HIC) at the University of Washington on March 3. They were the only non-UW affiliated entrepreneurs among the 18 finalist teams that pitched ideas to more than 100 judges from business and health science professions.

Katherine Brandenstein
Katherine introduces vial with SafeShot lid
Emily Willard of Everett, Wash., and Katherine Brandenstein of Woodinville, Wash., are cofounders of Engage and won with the prototype for their product SafeShot. It is a lid that attaches to a multi-use medicine injection vial to sterilize the needle each time it enters the vial.

In the developing world, needle reuse is not uncommon. SafeShot’s sterilizing liquid stops the spread of contaminates such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

“This award will help us do further research on how SafeShot can become a standard in the vaccine market,” said Willard.

View full article at WSU News

NEW – View Northwest Public Television Interview with Willard and Brandenstein

Brandenstein and Willard with $10,000 check
Brandenstein and Willard with $10,000 check

WSU grant will help fight devastating citrus disease

Haluk Beyenal
Haluk Beyenal

PULLMAN, Wash. – Three Washington State University researchers have received a $2.1 million grant to help save the U.S. and global citrus industry. They will develop methods of growing a citrus-destroying bacteria so that strategies to fight the disease it causes can be pursued.

Huánglóngbìng, or HLB, is also called “citrus greening disease,” and it is destroying orange, grapefruit and lemon trees around the world. Scientists haven’t been able to grow and maintain cultures of the bacterium that causes the disease.

“The simple answers didn’t work and we need a way to fight this,” said biochemist David Gang, a fellow in WSU’s Insitute of Biological Chemistry.

“This disease is wiping out the citrus industry in the U.S., and in five years there may not be any citrus orchards left,” he said. “I like orange juice too much to let it go away without a fight.”

View full article at WSU News

Chrystal Quisenberry receives Hariet B. Regas Award

Chrystal Quisenberry and Dr. Nehal Abu-Lail

Chrystal Quisenberry and Dr. Nehal Abu-LailThe Association for Faculty Women announced its 2015-2016 award winners for outstanding women in graduate studies. These awards recognize superlative academic and scholarly accomplishments, as well as professional potential of women graduate students at WSU completing their degrees in the 2015-2016 academic year. Voiland School graduate student Chrystal Quisenberry was one of the recipients.

Dissertation: “Nanomechanics in Cartilage Tissue Engineering”
Chair: Dr. Nehal I. Abu-Lail Schol of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Familiar with and impressed by her achievements as an undergraduate both as a leader and a researcher, Dr. Abu-Lail recruited Chrystal for her lab. She summarizes her research saying, “Although more than 27 million people in the U.S. suffer from the joint disease osteoarthritis, current treatments do not restore the full functions of the tissue. Because articular cartilage is avascular, meaning it lacks blood vessels, it has a limited capacity for self-repair. This has prompted researchers to focus on cartilage tissue engineering. As cartilage acts as a load bearing surface, one of the challenges in tissue engineering is creating a construct with mechanical properties near that of native cartilage. We, along with our collaborators, use a bioreactor to apply loads to the growing tissue with one of our intentions being to improve the tissue’s mechanical properties which is then measured using an atomic force microscope.”

Chrystal has received thirteen scholarship and awards including a NASA Space grant and an NIH grant. She has worked as a TA in four classes and mentors five students as a Future Cougar of Color Ambassador. She has published four journal articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented at twenty-four conferences.

View the story at the Association for Faculty Women’s website.