Yang receives $2.5M from DOE to advance clean biofuel technology

Posted: December 15, 2022
ST Yang in his lab
ST Yang in his lab

The Ohio State University College of Engineering has earned $2.5M in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to create biofuel energy to help decarbonize the transportation and power generation sectors.

The funding is part of the DOE’s recent $46M investment to develop waste conversion and carbon capture technologies to produce fuels from biomass and waste streams, and enable algal systems to capture carbon and turn it into alternative clean energy sources. Ohio State’s project is one of just 22 selected to earn funding.

“We are happy to receive this award that will allow us to pursue our long-term goal of developing green and sustainable biofuels that can reduce CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change caused by the petro-chemical industry,” said Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor Shang-Tian Yang, the project’s principal investigator.

Yang’s project will aim to understand and mitigate bottlenecks limiting biobutanol production from lignocellulosic sugars in clostridial fermentation. Current production of biobutanol from sugar in clostridial fermentation is limited by its low product titer, productivity and yield, poor process stability and short production duration. The project will initially focus on the understanding of mechanisms and factors causing large process performance variability and short or limited culture longevity in clostridial fermentation.

“Understanding the factors contributing to the strain instability and process variability will allow us to design and develop novel engineered clostridia strains for butanol production at a competitive cost for commercial application,” said Yang. “This will allow biobutanol to enter the biofuel market and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Collaborators on the project include researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Tuskegee University.

Yang previously received a $1.6 million award from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for his work to develop more efficient biofuel production.

Advancing renewable and sustainable energy sources through research and innovation will play a critical role in achieving President Biden’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Waste streams, including municipal solid waste, animal manure, wastewater residuals, and other organic wastes, are a key feedstock for producing biofuels and bioproducts. However, these waste streams can be an economic liability to the communities managing them and often lead to a multitude of health impacts on surrounding populations.

“Turning waste and carbon pollution into clean energy at scale would be a double win—cleaning up waste streams that disproportionately burden low-income communities and turning it into essential energy,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Biofuel energy has the unique ability to decarbonize high-emitting sectors, create good-paying jobs, and significantly clear away barriers on the path to America’s clean energy future.” 

Visit the DOE website to learn more about the funding and selected projects.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu

Category: Faculty
Tag: Yang