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Biological Systems Engineering Bioenergy and Bioproducts

WSU faculty member presents at National Advance Biofuels Conference and Expo

Biodiesel Magazine, by Ron Kotrba | August 24, 2016

An in-depth review of the National Advanced Biofuels Conference

For the first time ever, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo was co-located with the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in 2016, a conference pairing that will become the norm for event organizer BBI International. The conferences were held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with sessions running June 21-22. NABCE included two tracks, with one focused entirely on cellulosic ethanol, and the second on biodiesel and other advanced biofuels. Track two, the focal point of this review, included presentations on biojet fuel, biogas and biodiesel.

Bin Yang with Washington State University discussed biojet fuel from lignin. He said lignin from biomass is currently used for electricity and steam production, but through a process of depolymerization and defragmentation followed by catalytic upgrading, the material is suited for jet fuel feedstock. [read full article]

Research Team Competes for Prize

April 5, 2016

“Even though Green Esters didn’t win one of the top prizes, they were still incredible competitors and your department should be proud.”  – Emily Willeman, Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, Foster School of Business, University of Washington

List of winners

March 31, 2016

In January, a team of researchers in Dr. Shulin Chen’s Bioprocessing & Bioproducts Engineering Lab earned the privilege of moving on to the next step in the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, on Thursday, March 31, is in the Seattle Center. It’s a competitive tradeshow-style event with a total of $36,000 being awarded to winning teams.

The team is Green Esters, which has developed a synthetic biology platform to transform the negative-value or low-value waste materials into advanced biofuels and valuable chemicals. It includes Rishikesh Ghogare (, Yaojing Qiu (, and Xiaochao Xiong (

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge was founded in 2009 and has since awarded more than $180,000 to winning teams. It’s an event with more than 100 judges from the Seattle entrepreneurial/cleantech community listening to the teams pitch. The technology showcased is truly incredible, and many of the teams conceived for the EIC are still companies today (like PotaVida and WISErg).

Biowaste-to-jet fuel

Discovery advances biowaste-to-jet fuel research

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Dr. Bin Yng
Dr. Bin Yang

RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities have figured out a way to successfully convert a common wood byproduct into hydrocarbon molecules that could be used as jet fuel. [read full article]

Treated with care: Analyzing a new pre-treatment process for biofuel production

By Jon Evans,, Dec 14, 2015

Next-generation biofuels: The biofuel industry is placing great store in the next-generation of biofuels produced from general plant biomass such as straw and wood rather than from food crops such as corn and wheat. The big remaining stumbling block is that although the technology exists for converting plant biomass into biofuels,… [read full article]

Breakthrough WSU invention to turn forests into jet fuel

By Steve Wilhelm, Seattle Techflash, Dec 1, 2015

Just as world leaders are struggling to throttle back climate change at the Paris summit, researchers at Washington State University are honing a new method to turn wood fibers into jet fuel for Boeing (NYSE: BA) jets.

The research, led by Associate Professor Bin Yang, has progressed far enough that it is featured on the cover of the December issue of Green Chemistry, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry based in the United Kingdom.

[read full article]

Bioresource Technology, Best Paper Award 2015

Congratulations to Dr. Hanwu Lei and his group members and co-authors who won “Best Paper Award 2015” from Bioresource Technology. The published paper “A review of catalytic hydrodeoxygenation of lignin-derived phenols from biomass pyrolysis appears among the ten top cited papers contributing to the Bioresource Technology 2014 Impact Factor, receiving 31 citations (Web of Science) during 2014 which puts the paper in Joint 5th place. Dr. Lei and his co-authors are contributing such high-quality work to the journal and helping to secure Bioresource Technology’s continued position as a high impact journal in its field.

Dr. Quan Bu is the first author who is the WSU graduate (2013) of Biological Systems Engineering. The awarded paper is co-authored with his advisor Dr. Hanwu Lei and his graduate committee members Dr. Juming Tang and Dr. Qin Zhang. Quan won 2012 WSU BSE Graduate Studies Achievement Award – Alfred and Genevieve Gallucci. He is currently an associate professor at Jiangsu University in China.

Bioresource Technology’s aim is to advance and disseminate knowledge in all the related areas of biomass, biological waste treatment, bioenergy, biotransformations and bioresource systems analysis, and technologies associated with conversion or production. Bioresource Technology’s 5-Year Impact Factor is 5.330. It ranked #2 in Waste Management and Disposal in 2014 among all high impact journals from SCImago Journal and Country Rank. The awarded paper will be made free promotional access for 3 months by the journal, so that non-subscribers can also access and read the work free of charge, to ensure even more researchers in the field benefit from the paper and findings.

Research to be presented at 2015 AIChE Annual Meeting

Research work by graduate student, Mohammadali Azadfar, under his advisor, Dr. Shulin Chen, has been accepted as one of the top seven topics of lignin-based materials for an oral presentation at prestige AIChE national conference, November 813, 2015 in Salt Lake city.

Research Title: “Investigation of Nanostructural Characteristics of Lignin-ABA Block Copolymer Aggregates Leading to Use of Micelles As Nanoreactors for Lignin Conversion

Doctoral student travels from China to study biofuels pretreatment technology

September 14, 2015 | Tri-Cities Business News, by Maegan Murray

Libing ZhangAs scientists and engineers work to create more efficient biofuels, there is one step of the process that remains expensive and, in some circumstances, inefficient for large-scale production.

One of the most significant challenges of cellulosic bio-refining has been and continues to be the development of effective and low-cost pretreatment technology, which is one of the first steps in the biofuels production process.

WSU Tri-Cities doctoral student Libing Zhang traveled from her homeland of southeast China to attend WSU for her doctoral program because of the research WSU is conducting in this field.

[read full article]

Researchers produce jet fuel compounds from fungus

May 5, 2015 | by Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

Dr. Ahring with studentRICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University researchers have found a way to make jet fuel from a common black fungus found in decaying leaves, soil and rotting fruit. The researchers hope the process leads to economically viable production of aviation biofuels in the next five years. [read full article]

Global Case Competition

Six students at Washington State University were crowned champions of WSU’s Fifth Annual Global Case Competition, Friday, April 10, 2015.

The victorious group, under the name Team Verde, consists of a pair of graduate students from the WSU Spokane campus, team captain Emma Henselbecker and Sara Dumit, as well as four undergraduates from Pullman, Brandon Hernandez-Cantu, Emelia Stephan, Kimberly Rogers and Ivan Valdovinos. The faculty advisor is Grant Norton of the Honors College.

This year’s case centers on plastic waste in Manaus, Brazil with over 120 participants. Five finalist teams were selected to present their solutions to a panel of judges. Team Verde members will now have the opportunity to travel to Brazil for further study.

The second place team, Cougar Cogeneration, consisted of Sergio Baravalle (BSE), Annalise Miller (CAS, Math), Stephanie Gardiner (NURS, Nursing) and Philip Behrend (CAS, Math), and advised by Chuck Pezeshki (Voiland College of Architecture and Engineering) not pictured.

Slide 1:  Briefly, while thinking about the challenge, we wanted to make sure to involve and align the main stakeholders in the community, including the poor class, middle class and industrial sector in order to solve the serious problem of plastic waste in Manaus Brazil.

Slide 2:  Manaus is a remote area in the middle of the Amazonas that relies on expensive energy from fossil fuels to feed its growing industry sector. This situation creates a suitable environment for the development of sustainable and profitable solutions since relatively cheap raw materials are available to produce energy from non-recyclable plastic waste.

Based on that situation and leveraging on technologies and concepts in the BSE Department, we developed a solution that is technically feasible and profitable. It considers social aspects, taking scavengers out of the landfill and providing them with a sustainable income, managing a sorting facility. We also considered a sanitary program developed by a member of our team who is studying nursing.

The practical solution considers the gasification of the nonrecyclable plastic in a cogeneration plant. This plant has the capacity to produce electric power while distilling polluted water for poor people that are currently drinking contaminated water.

Slide 3:  While we were developing the project we were aware that the scope was too large for a group of students to manage. However, we wanted to consider the situation holistically, perhaps one day working with WSU as ambassadors to Brazil. Numerous resources are available at WSU to support this endeavor.

The electricity would be sold to the grid and according to our calculation and benchmarking studies, the project is profitable.

Click here to find out about past Global Case Competitions