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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Jesse Thompson
Doctor of Philosophy
Title: Characterizing Potential Sustainable Energy Feedstocks
Dr. John Miller, Chair
Dr. Steve Bertman
Dr. Andre Venter
Dr. Todd Barkman
Date: Thursday, July 7, 2011 Noon to 2:00 p.m.
Chemistry Building, Room 1220
Government policies are being enacted to utilize higher volumes of alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, for a number of benefits including energy independence, economic security and sustainable energy production. The current biofuel feedstock supply situation shows the need to discover new raw materials sources. Because understanding characteristics of a potential biofuel feedstock is very important during initial research and production stages, developing methods to characterize and analyze these materials is essential. This study details the characterization of two potential biofuel feedstocks: waste grease and benthic algae.
Waste grease offers a promising and less expensive alternative to food grade vegetable for biodiesel production, but its commercial marketability could be affected by its intense odor. Identification, quantitation and eventual elimination of the odorant compounds are thus vital, and a rapid, quantitative method for evaluating these compounds has been developed in this study. The main odorant compounds were identified as short chain free fatty acids. The concentration of these compounds in the waste grease was monitored during its processing and conversion to biodiesel. Sensory evaluations by human subjects were performed and a positive correlation between the concentration of short chain free fatty acids present in the waste grease and its odor intensity was observed.
The search for alternative bio-energy sources has expanded to waste biomass sources including benthic (attached) algae. Carbohydrates present in the algal biomass can potentially be utilized to produce ethanol through fermentation. Identification and quantitation of monosaccharide sugars is important to establishing the ethanol production potential of benthic algae. In this study, the geographic and seasonal variations in the carbohydrate content of benthic algae were examined. Fermentation studies were conducted and the ethanol production results were compared to the monosaccharide content and pretreatment schemes. The growth rate and ethanol production potential of benthic algae is compared to other biomass energy crops.