Research & Initiatives

Biofuels & Bioproducts Development

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Energy production and use are strong indicators of economic prosperity and high living standards. Global energy demand is projected to grow dramatically within the next 50 years, but at the same time the public is concerned about energy security, climate change, and environmental pollution. Clearly, our country needs policies and technologies that enhance energy conservation and promote renewable energy production from sustainable natural resources.

Given the critical nature of energy, we have made renewable energy R&D and education top priorities at the College with a focus on technology development in biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel, and green hydrocarbons) and biopower from cellulosic biomass and algae.

George Philippidis, Ph.D.
Phone: (813) 974-9333
gphilippidis@usf.edu

 
 

Focus Areas

Algae Technology

Algae

Indoor algae systems for technology development, demonstration, and testing.

Algae represents a promising source of alternative fuels and bioproducts, but with the added benefit of serving as a sink for carbon dioxide and wastewater. Using our experience in algae engineering for the production of chemicals and fuels, we use native Floridian algae strains at our lab and outdoor facilities to generate and commercialize algal products under real-world conditions. Algal lipids can be transesterified to produce biodiesel or can be thermally treated to produce aviation- and military-specification fuels. Algal sugars can be used to produce a myriad of chemicals via fermentation, whereas algal protein can serve as animal feed and fish food. Our applied research closes the gap between innovative ideas and the marketplace.

commercial-scale algae operation

Conceptual layout of our modular algae cultivation system at commercial scale.

Our efforts are focused on:

 
 

Biofuels & Bioproducts From Biomass

Biomass conversion pilot plant integrated inside a commercial sugarcane mill in Florida.

Biomass conversion pilot plant
integrated inside a commercial
sugarcane mill in Florida.

Biomass is an abundant and inexpensive domestic feedstock for biorefineries designed to produce value-added products and clean power. Florida can generate significant amounts of biomass annually: sugarcane and sweet sorghum bagasse, yard waste, agricultural residues, citrus peel, and forestry wood.

We test and optimize the conversion of various biomass species to sugars in scalable and cost-effective ways through biochemical conversion. First, biomass is pretreated using mild conditions and green chemistry principles. Then, cellulase enzymes are employed to convert cellulose to simple sugars. The generated 6- and 5-carbon sugars can form the basis of a sustainable green economy, as they are readily convertible via fermentation (or thermochemical processing) to a variety of platform chemicals for the manufacture of biofuels, plastics, resins, and other renewable products. In essence, biomass can replace oil as the source of chemical compounds essential for consumer products.

A biorefinery pilot plant has been designed and operated in partnership with a sugarcane company inside one of its mills in Florida. It provides USF and its collaborators with unique process development and scale-up capabilities in a real-world environment.

 
 

Biodiesel

 Biodiesel from sustainable domestic sources can replace diesel from imported oil.

Biodiesel from sustainable domestic
sources can replace diesel from
imported oil

Fuel diversification is needed for diesel and jet engines. The United States consumes 57 billion gallons of diesel and 5 billion gallons of military fuels annually, hence depending significantly on foreign oil. Such dependence renders the United States vulnerable to political instability around the world.

We have technical and business expertise in biodiesel production with a focus on sustainable technologies and resources:

Production of biodiesel is conducted in batch and continuous modes.
We are available to assist entrepreneurs, companies, and communities
in the production, distribution, and marketing aspects of their biodiesel
business.