Back in 2016, researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities landed a National Science Foundation I-Corps grant to explore the market potential of their biojet fuel research. The team had successfully demonstrated a new, water-based process for deconstructing and recovering lignin from biomass and converting it into jet fuel-range hydrocarbons. These could be certified as jet fuel in the future. Lignin, a polymer that makes plants woody and rigid, is a waste product in the biofuels production process.
Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of biological systems engineering and principal investigator for the grant, holds a patent on the process.
“Our ultimate goal is to demonstrate a flexible catalytic process that selectively converts all the carbon in the lignin into jet fuel-range hydrocarbons at minimal cost,” Yang said at the time. Dr. Yang gave this illuminating update and overview of the technology’s progress and promise at ABLC Next in San Francisco.
Oct 2017 | IFT Food Engineering Division Newsletter
The department highlighted this month is the Department of Biological Systems Engineering (BSE), in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at the Washington State University located in Pullman, WA. BSE offers the Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Biological and Agricultural Engineering with four areas of emphasis, including Food Engineering. As of Fall 2017, 25 graduate students are enrolled in the Ph.D. degree and 2 in M. S. degree programs with an emphasis in Food Engineering. Under the supervision of three core faculty members, these students conduct cutting-edge research in advanced thermal and nonthermal food technologies as well as polymeric packaging technologies to help the food industry address challenges of increasing consumer demand for safe, nutritious, and high-quality food products. These students are often involved in multi-institutional programs supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture CAPS projects, USDA National Needs Program; their dissertation committee members represent from different disciplines, including Food Science, Electric Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Veterinary Sciences. In addition, students are members of a very active Food Engineering Club which organizes various activities to enhance their professional and social experiences. Students participate in summer internships at food processing and polymer companies and actively support faculty members in technology transfer boot camps, among other professional development activities. Our past graduates are working in major US and international universities, federal government agencies and global food companies.
Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington have discovered that newly combined spectroscopy processes can reveal the differences between the inside and the outside of the molecular structure of cellulosic biomass.
At WSU, Chad Kruger, director of CSANR; Claudio Stöckle, Biological Systems Engineering professor; and Kirti Rajagopalan, assistant research professor with CSANR, received more than $490,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“The fruit and vegetable industries make very significant investments in infrastructure and logistics to produce, process, pack and distribute products,” said Kruger. “Having better information to understand future risks to these investments is critical to the sustainability of fruit and vegetable production in the U.S.”
“The Pacific Northwest has growing advantages and opportunities that we want to explore,” added Rajagopalan. “We’re excited to help chart new strategies to sustain the fruit and vegetable value chain, while maintaining our nutritious, reliable and environmentally-sound food supply.”
State-of-the-art on Sensing Technologies for Plant Disease Detection
Lav Khot, Assistant Professor,
Department of Biological Systems Engineering
IAREC, Washington State University
Brief description: Site-specific disease detection is one of the key aspects of effective crop (loss) management. Recent advances in detectors (optical, chemical) have improved feasibility of development and use of rapid non-contact/nondestructive sensing techniques in plant diseases detection. Advances in versatile ground-, aerial-platforms, and internet of things (IOT)-enabled data acquisition, in-field onboard processing, and near-real-time delivery techniques have also helped in easing logical concerns, about time and labor, of field level crop scouting. This talk will thus focus on state-of-the art in the field of chemical and optical sensors, platforms (e.g. small and mid-sized unmanned aerial systems), and IOT based technologies that could be an aid in rapid disease detection. Through case studies in specialty crops, the talk will discuss the feasibility of the technology in field level disease detection as well as challenges that need further research before its commercial use.
Molecular-level understanding of cellulose structure reveals why it resists degradation and could lead to cost-effective biofuels.
A major bottleneck hindering cost-effective production of biofuels and many valuable chemicals is the difficulty of breaking down cellulose—an important structural component of plant cell walls. A recent study addressed this problem by characterizing molecular features that make cellulose resistant to degradation.
RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities took home the Wells Fargo “CleanTech” Big Picture prize during the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition this week.
With the award, the team, which includes Libing Zhang, a recent doctoral alumna, and Manuel Seubert and Taylor Pate, who are master’s in business administration students, was presented with a $5,000 check.
“We believe that we performed very well,” Zhang said. “We received extremely positive feedback regarding our business plan and presentation. Each team had a great product and were very convincing. We felt fortunate to be a part of it all.”
RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities whose business plan is to commercialize a WSU-patented jet fuel technology has advanced to the University of Washington Business Plan Competition’s “sweet 16” round.
The sweet 16 round of the UW Business Plan Competition kicks off May 25.
RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities technology and a business plan for converting the plant material lignin into biojet fuel won third place among 21 teams at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge finals last week.
The team of Libing Zhang, postdoctoral researcher, and Manuel Seubert, master’s of business administration student, worked regularly with researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to prepare for the competition. They won the Starbucks $5,000 prize.