Researcher wins DOE grant to create value from biorefinery waste

By South Dakota School of Mines & Technology | August 28, 2018

Rajesh Shende, associate professor in the chemical and biological engineering department at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has received a $2.16 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office to research and demonstrate cost-effective ways to turn waste from biorefineries, such as ethanol plants, into valuable products.

“The Integrated Biorefinery Optimization effort is a prime example of how the Department of Energy can leverage its resources to help solve real-world issues facing biorefineries,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

Shende’s research will focus on finding efficient ways to turn waste generated by ethanol plants and other biorefineries into useful products. Commodities such as biocarbon, carbon nanofibers, lactic acid, and phenol can be made from waste generated by facilities that process corn and other plant material. This waste is normally thrown-away—but finding cost effective means of turning it into new products will generate extra revenue for ethanol plants and other biorefineries and help lower fuel costs from these facilities.

Shende’s research will focus on three objectives: to demonstrate how the process of converting waste into value added products could integrate into current facilities, estimate the final product yields and revenue that could be generated based on current market value, examine the environmental and economic impact of the processes.

Partnering institutions on this project include: Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Idaho National Laboratory and Southwest Research Institute. This research also includes co-principal investigators: Hao Fong (SD Mines), Sandeep Kumar (ODU), Ram Gupta (VCU), and Tyler Westover (INL).

For more information about the DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office click here. To learn more about DOE’s programs under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy click here.