Collaborative Research Programs

Collaborative Research and Education on Synergized Transformational Solar Chemical Looping and Photo-Ultrasonic Renewable Biomass Refinery. RII Track-2 FEC

The project is interdisciplinary and addresses science and engineering issues in biomass conversion and will contribute to advances in materials chemistry, heterogeneous catalysis, and reaction theories. Each of the collaborating institutions brings complementary expertise in research and will hire new faculty in the areas related to Food, Energy, and Water. The project seeks to diversify the workforce through partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions in the region, national laboratories, and other national and international institutions.

The joint research group has arisen from the ongoing collaboration between Jackson State University (JSU) and the University of Wyoming (UW) on education and training of underrepresented minority students and research, and prompted by taking advantage of the strength of the unique research expertise of each institution of the Collaborative Research, namely:

  • UW’s transformational biorefinery technology;
  • Groundbreaking biochar research at the University of Mississippi (UM);
  • Creative food and water resource research at the University of Delaware (UD) and JSU;
  • The successful nanomaterial and photochemistry research related to food and water applications (experimental and theoretical) at JSU and UD.

The Collaborative Research Group of four universities received a $6 million research grant from the National Science Foundation. Students and faculty will use the grant to research creative and cheap ways to reduce climate change, improve energy efficiency and reduce water and air pollution, according to the university.  The Award Abstract is here.

Non-technical description

Methods to convert biomass into energy involve burning in the presence of oxygen (combustion), reaction at high temperature with controlled amount of oxygen and /or steam (gasification), and decomposition at elevated temperature in the absence of oxygen (pyrolysis). This project focuses on biomass pyrolysis to produce fuels and biochar and then chemically modify biochar for use in applications related to carbon dioxide capture, water purification, and food production. The project is interdisciplinary and is a collaboration among four institutions (Jackson State University, University of Mississippi, University of Delaware, and the University of Wyoming) in three states. The project aims to diversify the workforce through partnerships with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in the region, hiring and mentoring of early career faculty and postdoctoral fellows, and training of graduate and undergraduate students.

Technical description

Using solar energy with chemical catalysis and steam pyrolysis, this project aims to produce liquid fuels and value-added biochar from biomass (e.g. corn stover). The goal is to develop technologies for biomass refineries that produce net zero or negative CO2 emission. The project combines experimental work with computations based on Density Functional Theory (DFT) to better understand the thermodynamics, kinetics, and transport in the chemical looping energy production system. The photochemical and ultrasonic chemistry and functionalization of biochar will use graphene-related nanostructures and enable technologies for CO2 capture and utilization, water purification, and soil quality improvement.