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Preserving New York State Water Quality with an Integrated Biorefinery

Project Advisor
Professor Jillian Goldfarb -

Project Area/Concentration
Nanomaterials; Water Treatment; Catalyst

Project Description
In Central and Upstate New York, concerns over run-off from dairy and agricultural activities such as grape cultivation, cabbage, corn and hay farming could be assuaged by a new integrated biorefinery. The proposed work will design a flexible thermochemical conversion pathway that converts seasonally available biomasses to biofuels and bioproducts. The process design focuses on biomasses specific to NY industries. It will produce soil amendments that act as slow-release fertilizers to mitigate excess nutrient run-off, as well as activated carbon adsorbents to sequester water contaminants, preventing future hazardous algal blooms in our lakes and protecting drinking water supplies. By converting local farm and food production waste to biofuels, slow release fertilizers and activated carbon adsorbents we can: 1) lower resource consumption; 2) enhance nutrient use efficiency; 3) increase crop yields; 4) improve renewable energy deployment; 5) lessen anthropogenic environmental impacts of industrial agriculture and 6) protect and enhance drinking and recreational water quality across the state.

Working individually or in a team, students will gain experience in thermochemical conversion methods, key pathways for producing fuels from biomass. 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.

a. 190 °C, 1 hr hydrochar. SEM images of carbonized biomass at 190 °C, 1 hr and 230 °C, 3 hr; scale bar indicates 10 mb. 230 °C, 3 hr hydrochar. SEM images of carbonized biomass at 190 °C, 1 hr and 230 °C, 3 hr; scale bar indicates 10 m
a. 190 °C, 1 hr hydrochar                                            b. 230 °C, 3 hr hydrochar
SEM images of carbonized biomass at 190 °C, 1 hr and 230 °C, 3 hr; scale bar indicates 10 mm

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