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Integrated Biorefinery for Pyrolysis Biofuels and Biotemplated Nanomaterials

Project Advisor
Professor Jillian Goldfarb - goldfarb@cornell.edu

Project Area/Concentration
Nanomaterials; Water Treatment; Catalyst

Project Description
While the modern biorefinery could meet increasing global energy demands, thermochemical biomass-to-biofuel conversions are criticized for their total energy balance, fiscal and environmental externalities, and technical limits. One of the primary issues with using pyrolysis (heating in the absence of oxygen) as a biomass conversion technique is the need for significant, costly fuel upgrading to improve stability and increase the heating value of the oil. These issues are addressed in a new approach to the integrated biorefinery: by incorporating inorganic compounds such as metal nitrates and acetates into cellulosic feedstocks, it is possible to simultaneously engineer high-value nanomaterials via biotemplating, while increasing hydrogen and other clean-burning gas components, and catalytically upgrading renewable bio-oils, reducing the need for costly downstream upgrading.

Working alongside a Ph.D. one M.Eng. student will explore the key factors that lead to fuel upgrading and nanomaterial formation. Students will learn a variety of materials fabrication and characterization techniques and analytical chemistry laboratory skills and will develop an understanding of the key bottlenecks in biofuel upgrading that we must overcome to implement a modern biorefinery. Please note: we do NOT use biological treatment methods (e.g. fermentation, digestion, etc.); our laboratory focuses on thermochemical methods (e.g. pyrolysis, liquefaction, gasification). Students with a background in Chemical, Environmental and/or Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, and/or Materials Science will be best suited for this project. The ideal student for this project will be capable of working in a team with excellent communication skills, but have the independent motivation necessary to carry out a portion of this project on her/his own.

Figure 1. New approach to the integrated biorefinery; solid lines indicate current processes for pyrolysis biofuels and biotemplated nanomaterials, dotted lines are proposed novel process
New approach to the integrated biorefinery; solid lines indicate current processes for pyrolysis biofuels and biotemplated nanomaterials, dotted lines are proposed novel process.

Possible Courses

Course number Course title
AEP 6610 Nanocharacterization
BEE 6310 Multivariate Statistics for Environmental Applications
CEE 5921 Sustainable Engineering in Context
CEE 6530 Water Chemistry for Environmental Engineering
CEE 6550 Transport, Mixing, and Transformation in the Environment
CEE 6560 Physical/Chemical Process
CHEME 7110 Advanced Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
CHEME 7130 Chemical Kinetics and Transport
CHEME 7310 Advanced Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer
MSE 5150 Structures and Materials for Sustainable Energy Systems
MSE 5550 Introduction to Composite Materials
MSE 5810 Materials Chemistry
MSE 5820 Mechanical Properties of Materials, Processing, and Design
MSE 5830 Thermodynamics of Condensed Systems
MSE 5840 Kinetics, Diffusion, and Phase Transformation
MSE 6010 Chemistry of Materials
MSE 6030 Thermodynamics of Materials
MSE 6210 Solid State Chemistry