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Biomass Based Products Research

Recycling garbage such as glass, plastic, metal, and paper.Spinning biomass into gold. Quest Magazine, Fall 2016. Photo combines several images into one, iStock and not stock.

Faculty conducting research in this area include Paul Dalhaimer, Siris Laursen, Arthur Ragauskas, Cong Trinh, and Thomas Zawodzinski.

Simply, earth’s living organisms are biomass. Biomass is organic material that stores sunlight in the form of chemical energy. In the effort to become less dependent on fossil fuel, secure energy resources, and protect the environment, there’s a growing global market for renewable and sustainable products from biomass, commonly referred to as bio-based products. Examples include biofuels, biochemicals, and natural fiber composites and bioplastics.

Our research program is directed at exploring the fundamental principles of catalytic and biocatalytic conversion of biomass to biofuels, biochemicals and materials. Topics include bioenergy and biofuels (Ragauskas, Trinh, Dalhaimer), green chemistry (Ragauskas, Laursen, Trinh, Dalhaimer) and design of (bio)catalysts (Laursen, Trinh).

Related News

Laursen’s Receives NSF CAREER Award
Associate Professor Siris Laursen was selected as a 2018 recipient of an NSF CAREER Award.

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Spinning Biomass into Gold
UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair Art Ragauskas and other researchers are exploring ways to generate a profit from lignin, which is currently regarded as waste.

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Featured Publications

Single mutation at a highly conserved region of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase enables isobutyl acetate production directly from cellulose by Clostridium thermocellum at elevated temperatures
Trinh and his research team discovered an engineered chloramphenicol acetyltransferase can be harnessed to create a novel thermophilic microbial platform for consolidated bioprocessing of lignocellulosic biomass into designer bioesters with broad applications as fuels, chemicals, flavors, and fragrances where saccharification, fermentation, and separation can be conducted in a single step. This research is published in the journal of Biotechnology for Biofuels.

Cross-linked poly(methyl vinyl ether-co-maleic acid)/poly(ethylene glycol)/nanocellulosics foams via directional freezing
This research from Art Ragauskas’ team is focused on cross-linked nanocelluloses, poly(methyl vinyl ether-co-maleic acid) (PMVEMA) and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) foams. The nanocellulose foams were made by direction-freezing technique which obtained aligned three-dimensional porous structures. Enhanced mechanical performance and hydrophobicity were observed on these cross-linked foams. This research is published in the journal of Carbohydrate Polymers.

Characterization of fractional cuts of co-solvent enhanced lignocellulosic fractionation lignin isolated by sequential precipitation
Lignin valorization is hindered by the heterogeneity of its complex structures and variability of biomass feedstocks. Fractionation of lignin can overcome these challenges by producing distinct lignin cuts that can be tailored to end products. This research, published in Bioresource Technology, suggests extracting lignin from poplar via a co-solvent enhanced lignocellulosic fractionation technique, and subsequently fractionate the lignin through solvent extraction and sequential precipitation.

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