An interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers at North Carolina A&T State University has launched a five-year project to make the production of advanced biofuels more efficient and affordable.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) Bioenergy Center’s goal is to make biomass a more viable source of renewable energy by developing the basic science and technology that will make energy conversions more efficient and costs more affordable.

The center is conducting fundamental research toward the development of advanced thermochemical biomass conversion technology to produce liquid transportation fuels and hydrogen.

The $5 million project is funded by the NSF’s CREST program.

“Biobased industries present tremendous opportunities for agriculture and energy independence. To be sustainable they must rely on non-food sources and they present major technical and logistical challenges which require coordination between government, private industry and research institutions,” said Dr. Abolghasem Shahbazi, center director and N.C. A&T professor of biological engineering in the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. 

“We know petroleum is a finite resource. We know it’s going to run out, the only question is when. We know liquid fuels are necessary for transportation, because of the high energy density they contain. Nothing else comes close. So biofuels are the best alternative for replacing petroleum fuels.”

The center’s research will specifically target the production of high quality synthesis gas from biomass gasification, nanocatalysts for the conversion of syngas to bioethanol and the production of high purity hydrogen for fuel cell applications.

The center research team includes Dr. Shamsuddin Ilias, research professor, chemical and bioengineering; Dr. Debasish Kuila, professor of chemistry; Dr. Lijun Wang, associate professor of biological engineering; Dr. Lyubov Kurkalova, associate professor of economics; Dr. Keith Schimmel, associate professor of chemical engineering and chair of the Department of Energy and Environmental Systems (EES); Dr. Yevgeniy Rastigeyev, assistant professor of math/EES; Dr. Vinayak Kabadi, professor of chemical engineering; Dr. Jinzhong Lou, professor of chemistry; and Dr. Divi Venkateswarlu, associate professor of chemistry.

For more information on the NSF CREST Bioenergy Center, visit its website at http://www.ncat.edu/research/bioenergy/index.html.