US Department of Energy funds $2.2mn research project to turn biorefinery waste into valuable products

Rajesh Shende, Ph.D., associate professor in the chemical and biological engineering department at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, US, has received a $2.16mn grant.

Rajesh Shende shown here at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology lab while doing research on sabbatical, is the principal investigator on a project that aims to turn biorefinery waste into value-added products.
Rajesh Shende shown here at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology lab while doing research on sabbatical, is the principal investigator on a project that aims to turn biorefinery waste into value-added products.

The grant from the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office is offered to research and demonstrate cost-effective ways to turn waste from biorefineries, such as ethanol plants, into valuable products.

The integrated biorefinery optimisation effort is a prime example of how the Department of Energy can leverage its resources to help solve real-world issues facing bio-refineries,” said US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

Shende’s research will focus on finding efficient ways to turn waste generated by ethanol plants and other biorefineries into useful products. Commodities such as biocarbon, carbon nanofibres, lactic acid, and phenol can be made from waste generated by facilities that process corn and other plant material.

This waste is normally thrown away – but finding cost effective means of turning it into new products will generate extra revenue for ethanol plants and other biorefineries and help lower fuel costs from these facilities.

Shende’s research will focus on three objectives: to demonstrate how the process of converting waste into value-added products could integrate into current facilities; estimate the final product yields and revenue that could be generated based on current market value; examine the environmental and economic impact of the processes.

Partnering institutions on this project include Old Dominion University (ODU), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and Southwest Research Institute. This research also includes co-principal investigators: Hao Fong (South Dakota School of Mines & Technology), Sandeep Kumar (ODU), Ram Gupta (VCU), and Tyler Westover (INL).

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