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Professors receive funding for cellulosic biofuels research

Two NDSU professors received $309,357 from the National Science Foundation for research to improve conversion and reduce costs of making ethanol from cellulosic biomass. Andriy Voronov, assistant professor in the Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials, and Scott Pryor, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, will conduct the research in collaboration with Sergiy Minko, chaired professor of chemistry at Clarkson University, Potsdam, N.Y., who was awarded $200,978 from the National Science Foundation.

The group’s research objective is to enhance conversion of cellulosic biomass into fermentable glucose to convert into ethanol or other chemicals or fuels. Their work aims at improving efficacy and reducing costs of cellulase enzymes needed for converting biomass to soluble sugars. Their research proposal is titled "pH-Responsive Capsules for Enhanced Delivery and Recovery of Cellulases for Biomass Hydrolysis."

By 2022, federal energy legislation calls for 36 billion gallons of biobased fuels be produced, with 16 billion of that from cellulosic biomass and five billion from advanced biofuels. In their proposal, the researchers point out that significant challenges remain to develop economical cellulosic ethanol. The research group at NDSU will focus on engineering a robust and scalable method to manufacture hierarchically structured hybrid organic-inorganic microcapsules loaded with cellulase enzymes. They also will work to develop a methodology to recover and reuse these capsules to convert cellulose into fermentable glucose.

According to Voronov, six undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in the research. They will gain expertise in biotechnology, biocatalysis and material science, and be provided an opportunity to participate in professional meetings to present results of their research. Under the research proposal and in conjunction with their research, faculty members plan to provide lectures and potential summer lab internship opportunities for high school students and science teachers.

Voronov joined the Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials in 2007. He previously was staff scientist in the Institute of Particle Technology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. He earned his master’s degree and doctorate in chemical engineering and macromolecular chemistry from the Lviv Polytechnic National University of Ukraine.

Pryor came to the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 2006. He earned his doctorate in biological and environmental engineering from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Pryor completed postdoctoral work at Cargill Acidulants, Eddyville, Iowa, and had been an environmental engineer for Brown and Caldwell, St. Paul, Minn.

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Last Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2022 2:51:57 PM
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