Research development

Auburn projects receive $1.6 million in latest round of public research development funding

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Auburn University received $1.6 million in research grants from the state of Alabama through the Alabama Research Development and Enhancement Fund.

The grants, administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, are for research and development of four different sustainability projects housed at Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

Of the total $1,590,470 awarded to Auburn:

  • $727,677 is spent on research for the production of jet fuels and diesel fuels from woody biomass and plastic waste;

  • $294,008 is dedicated to research and evaluation of the economic feasibility of converting organic waste into bioplastics;

  • $268,353 is spent on research into smart polymer machines; and

  • $300,432 is being spent on developing soybean hulls as a way to preserve aquaculture feed pellets in bulk, resulting in less waste and more consumption by farmed fish and shellfish.

The researchers include Principal Investigator Sushil Adhikari, Professor and Director of the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, Department of Biosystems Engineering; Principal Investigator Peter He, Associate Professor, and Co-Principal Investigators Jin Wang and Mario Eden, Department of Chemical Engineering; Principal Investigator Jason Clark, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Principal Investigator Zhihua Jiang, Assistant Professor and Director of the Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering Science, and Co-Principal Investigator Burak Aksoy, Department of Chemical Engineering.

The summaries of the projects are as follows:

Title: Advanced liquid transport fuels from the co-liquefaction of forest biomass and plastic waste
Investigator: Adhikari

The goal is to advance economic development in the state and nationally through revitalizing natural resource-based industries and establishing new industries based on advanced liquid fuels from woody biomass grown in the state and plastic waste collected in cities. Woody biomass prevalent in Alabama will be co-liquefied with plastic waste using pyrolysis technology, which will then be subjected to hydrogen treatment to produce jet fuels and diesel fuels.

Title: A new biotechnology that converts agricultural and municipal waste into bioplastics
Investigators: He, Wang and Eden

Alabama is one of the top agricultural producing states in the United States, with annual agricultural exports exceeding $1 billion. As a result, there is a significant amount of organic waste produced in the state, and Alabama ranks 14th among all states in the potential for producing biogas from organic waste through anaerobic digestion, or AD. . This organic waste represents an underutilized renewable raw material for the production of biofuels and biochemicals. This project aims to research and assess the economic feasibility of converting organic waste into bioplastics. Specifically, the project will develop and optimize a prototype of a patent-pending biotechnology that enables the conversion of organic waste into bioplastics, and assess its large-scale technical and economic feasibility through techno-economic analysis, or TEA.

In the proposed technology, a coculture of microalgae-methanotrophs will be grown in a new patent-pending circulating coculture biofilm photobioreactor, or CCBP, to convert biogas (both methane and carbon dioxide) derived from waste organics into microbial biomass while simultaneously recovering AD chemicals. effluent to produce clean treated water. The mixed microbial biomass produced can be economically processed to produce high-value bioplastics that are in increasing demand. The project will advance patent-pending biotechnology progress toward commercialization, which has the potential to create many new jobs in the state of Alabama.

Title: Smart Polymer Machines
Investigator: Clark

This project aims to research and develop the basic elements of “polymechatronics”, which will allow the realization of intelligent polymer machines that can be printed in 3D. Research includes the design, fabrication, modeling and characterization of piezopolymer versions of traditional active mechanical and electrical building blocks such as actuators, sensors, energy harvesters, energy accumulators and circuit elements analog and digital. Compared to traditional devices, smart polymer machines are expected to be cheaper, easier to manufacture, biocompatible, recyclable, consume less energy, operate over a wider temperature range, offer new features and be more environmentally friendly. ‘environment.

Title: A novel and sustainable food binder from soybean hulls: large-scale production and evaluation
Investigators: Jiang and Aksoy

The goal is to establish a new low-cost, high-value compound feed binder from soybean hulls, a co-product of soybean processing for oil and meal production. The specific objectives of this project are: 1) to increase feed binder production to approximately 1.5 kg/hour and optimize processing conditions for production; and 2) to scale up shrimp feeding trials by simulating shrimp farming operations at a commercial shrimp farm in western Alabama.

The success of this project will establish a new high-value compound feed binder platform using 100% soybean hulls, ready for commercial-scale productions and applications with significant economic and environmental benefits: it will significantly improve the competitive advantage of shrimp farmers in Alabama by reducing their feed costs. This, in turn, will improve employment opportunities in the seafood farming and processing industry, making more local seafood and services available to Alabama citizens. Additionally, it will also significantly improve water quality by reducing leached nutrients.

Auburn is among five Alabama universities and one research institute sharing grants totaling $4.85 million, according to the announcement released recently by the Alabama governor’s office.

“Our universities and research institutes in Alabama are making a real impact on the world, and I’m proud to continue to invest in the important work they do,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “This $4.85 million is an investment in the future of Alabama and the future of research.”

(Written by Mitch Emmons)