Iowa State University has established a laboratory in the Biorenewables Laboratory (BRL) Building dedicated to hybrid thermochemical/biological processing of biomass. Faculty and students from the departments of Food Science and Nutrition, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering are collaborating in this interdisciplinary program to convert cellulosic biomass into fuels and chemicals using a combination of thermochemical and biological processes. The two main areas of research are syngas fermentation and bio-oil fermentation.
The next step to accelerate commercialization of biorefineries is the mass production of biomass processing modules. Biomass processing modules can be fabricated at a central construction facility with modern manufacturing practices, including automation, sensors and controls, and lean and agile manufacturing. This approach has proven successful in the airline, vehicle, and consumer product industries and could be the missing piece to rapid growth in advanced biofuel production.
The objective of this signature program is to develop high-fidelity computational tools capable of predicting the thermochemical conversion process of lignocellulosic biomass to produce valued products. Thermochemical conversion of biomass involves complex physicochemical processes, including multiphase hydrodynamics, thermal decomposition, and chemical reactions occurring in gas and solid phases.
The Bioeconomy Institute (BEI) is involved in a number of research projects involving algae, a promising biomass used in the production of biofuels.