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Biological Systems Engineering Bioenergy and Bioproducts

New way to characterize cellulose, advance bioproducts

MARCH 23, 2017  |  by Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have found a new way to define the molecular structure of cellulose, which could lead to cheaper and more efficient ways to make a variety of crucial bioproducts.

For the first time, researchers revealed the differences between the surface layers and the crystalline core of cellulose by combining spectroscopy processes that use infrared and visible laser beams to analyze the structure of molecular components. The findings appear this month in Scientific Reports, an online open-access journal produced by the Nature Publishing Group (

[ full article at WSU News ]

Grant funds test of market potential for jet fuel research

December 1, 2016 | WSU News, by  Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities have been awarded a National Science Foundation I-Corps grant to explore the market potential of their biojet fuel research.

The team has 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.

Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of biological systems engineering and principal investigator for the grant, holds a patent on the process.

[full article in WSU News]

Student represents U.S. at sustainable chemistry school

October 4, 2016 | WSU News, by Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

zhu-leiRICHLAND, Wash. – A doctoral student at Washington State University Tri-Cities is one of 15 worldwide, and the only U.S. student, selected to participate in a recent week-long school in Germany about developing safe, reliable chemicals in a sustainable way.

“One of the biggest challenges for sustainability sciences is to find solutions that do not threaten economic growth, the environment, and public welfare,” said Lei Zhu, who studies biological systems engineering at WSU Tri-Cities. “In particular, developing countries are seemingly faced with the dilemma of economic growth versus sustainability. Sustainability Sciences is all about coming up with ways out of dilemmas.”

[read full article in WSU News ]


Student works to boost renewable energy in Philippines

September 28, 2016| Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

In Elmar Villota’s home country of the Philippines, as much as 15 percent of households do not have electricity. Villota, a doctoral student in biological systems engineering at Washington State University Tri-Cities, is motivated to close that gap with renewable energy.

“A simple light bulb could make a world of difference,” he said. “Without a sustainable source of electricity, students can’t have light or read comfortably at night. Imagine how much knowledge they would miss.”

[read full article in WSU News]

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.

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