Energy and water are two critical issues that have to be addressed for sustainable development of the world. In the next 15 to 20 years, use of renewables for producing fuels and industrial products will increase. To be successful in societal context, any solution must be technically feasible, economically viable, environmentally beneficial, resource sustainable and societally acceptable. This requires integration of these aspects during the progress from ideation in fundamental research programs to final implementation in commercial facilities.
Focus on biofuels (To learn more about these technologies, please take a look at this self learning fun tool we developed: Biofuels Overview) for past two decades has been a true game changer for agricultural commodities such as corn, soybeans and other proposed biofuels feedstocks. However, in recent years, overall outlook for biofuels has substantially weakened due to various factors. Except for the success of corn ethanol, the potential of biofuels has not been realized at commercial scale due to various challenges in production and conversion of feedstock into biofuels. These trends are expected to continue in next few years. Therefore, it is important to refocus fundamental and applied research from a traditional biofuels focus to a more commercially feasible and societally valuable research focus to enhance the importance of renewables in our society. Our dependence on petroleum is not limited to fuels but also extends to plastics, fertilizers, nutraceuticals and other products of daily use. It is essential to develop bioproducts that can reduce or replace this dependence on petroleum. Markets for these products often have lower volatility compared to fuels market and hence the path to commercialization could have lower economic risk. It is important to not only develop products for niche markets, but also address the needs of commodity markets for platform chemicals from renewables to assure future market access for agricultural commodities. Additionally, our research must address the needs of meeting the food, fiber and feed for nine billion people in next few decades using increasingly scarce energy, water and nutrient resources. It is important to demolish the disciplinary silos that impede progress on these complex issues and can be achieved only through collaborations across multiple disciplines and stakeholders with an integrated vision.
Our research is broadly focused on development and evaluation of value added bioproducts and biofuels production technologies with an emphasis on technoeconomic feasibility and environmental sustainability. Our core skills in the areas of bioprocess development, biosystems modeling, process control and systems analysis are the main drivers of research. To achieve a sustainable biobased economy, it is important to study dierent technologies at multiple scales. Hence, we employ a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches using control theory, systems biology, process modeling, technoeconomic analysis and life cycle analysis techniques to conduct molecular, cellular, bench and industrial scale and systems level analyses. Through multidisciplinary, inter and intra institutional collaborative efforts, we focus on:
Through multidisciplinary, inter and intra institutional collaborative efforts, we focus on:
- Bioprocess development for production of value added bioproducts and biofuels.
- Bioprocess modeling, control and multicriteria optimization.
- Systems analysis using process modeling, simulation and life cycle assessment.
- Fundamental research to understand interactions and regulation of biochemical processes.