(17l) Upgrading Lignocellulosic Biomass to Biofuels and Value-Added Materials for a Sustainable Future

Authors: 
Le, R. K., University of Tennessee - Knoxville
Research Interests:

With the progressive depletion of fossil fuel resources and the necessity to combat climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, there is an emergent need to identify alternative environmentally sustainable energy sources. A potential green energy source is derived from a variety of biomass and industrial waste streams, which can be converted to fungible fuels

Lignin, after cellulose, is the second most abundant biopolymer on Earth, comprising 30% of the organic carbon in the biosphere. Although lignin exhibits a high-energy content, it is typically destined for combustion in biorefineries due to its heterogenic and recalcitrant nature. However, cellulose and hemicellulose can be converted to renewable fuels and value-add products.

Currently, biorefineries under value the potential of using lignin for addressing the worldâ??s need for fuel and materials. I am interested in genetically modifying bacteria and fungi that are able to utilize lignin and industrial waste streams as their sole carbohydrate source to increased lipid titers for biofuels, generate useful platform chemicals and value-added products for materials, and lignin degradation. I am also interested in developing techniques for enhancing the sustainability of biofuel production, efficiency of carbon conversion, and economic viability.

Teaching Interests:

Coupled with my research interests in sustainability, I am interested in teaching green engineering, bioprocess engineering, engineering economics, and life cycle analysis. I am also interested in applying an entrepreneurial aspect to process and product design.