Auburn University wins funds for biofuel, bioplastics research

By Erin Voegele | January 10, 2022

Auburn University was recently awarded more than $1 million in research grants from the state of Alabama to support projects that aim to produce jet and diesel fuels from woody biomass and convert organic waste into biobased plastics.

The awards were made through the Alabama Research Development and Enhancement Fund in late 2021 and are administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

According to the university, $727,677 will support research for producing jet and diesel fuels from wood biomass and waste plastics. Locally sourced wood biomass will be co-liquefied with waste plastics using a pyrolysis technology, which will then be subjected to hydrogen treatment to produce jet and diesel fuels.

An additional $294,008 will support research to assess the economic feasibility of converting organic wastes into bioplastics. Specifically, the university said the project will develop and optimize a prototype of a patent-pending biotechnology that enables the conversion of organic wastes into bioplastics, and to assess its technical and economic feasibility at scale through techno-economic analysis. The proposed technology involves the cultivation of a microalgae-methanotroph coculture in a novel patent-pending circulation coculture biofilm photobioreactor to convert biogas derived from organic waste into microbial biomass while simultaneously recovering chemicals from the anaerobic digestion (AD) effluent to produce treated clean water.

The two projects were funded as part of a $1.6 million award made through the Alabama Research and Development Fund to support four projects. In addition to the biofuel and bioplastic projects, the funding will also support research involving polymer smart machines and aquaculture feed pellets. A full copy of announcement is available on the Auburn University website