Biofuels from Biomass
Faculty: Larry Baxter
Dr. Baxter researches sustainable energy in several forms. His current projects include biomass gasification and combustion, nuclear reactor neutronics, isotope-specific gas kinetics, natural gas processing, and carbon capture. He does both laboratory and theoretical/modeling work and produces both academic and industrial results, including commercialization of academic results into useful industrial processes.
Direct Carbohydrate Fuel Cells
Faculty: Dean R. Wheeler
Glucose and other carbohydrates are among the most abundant and renewable sources of energy in the world. Yet, there has been a longstanding unmet need to utilize efficiently such biologically based sources of energy in batteries and fuel cells. As part of a team of researchers (chemical engineering and chemistry) we recently uncovered a class of organic catalysts that are able to extract electrical energy from a variety of carbohydrate fuels (i.e. sugars) to a degree that has not previously been reported. This catalyst system has the potential to operate at low temperatures and relatively high efficiencies, while avoiding use of expensive noble metals (like platinum) as do competing fuel cell technologies. Our best catalyst, methyl viologen, is also used industrially as an herbicide, and so is inexpensive and widely available. The promise of these catalysts is to enable a new type of fuel cell that can directly power remote and portable electrical devices from biologically derived fuels. Current work is to improve the performance of this catalyst system and bring a new type of fuel cell product to market. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation.