G. Peter van Walsum
|Interim Department Chair and Professor
Biomass processing • Biorefining • Renewable energy, fuels and chemicals • Process engineering
Developing Value Added Products and Biofuels from Marine Macro Algae
There is increasing interest in cultivating marine macro algae in Maine and New England. Increased production and consumption of marine algae will be beneficial for the economy of the working water front, as well as developing sustainable biomass and healthy food resources. Enabling the growth of this enterprise can be facilitated by improving methods for processing algal biomass for production and transport of food and non-food products from sea vegetables. This project looks particularly at extraction of high value bioactives and macromolecules from algal biomass and low energy drying of sea vegetables.
Recyclable α-Hydroxysulfonic Acids for Hydrolysis and Dehydration of Biomass
Hydrolysis and dehydration of biomass with a strong mineral acid is a common approach for production of chemicals such as furfural, formic acid and levulinic acid (FFL). Typically, recycling a strong mineral acid is difficult and costly, while the alternative of neutralization and disposal of the mineral salt is waste-generating and also expensive. We are investigating the production of these bioproducts from woody and algal biomass using α-hydroxysulfonic acids (HSAs), some of which are strong enough to hydrolyze biomass while being recyclable as non-acidic volatile gasses; for example α-hydroxyethanesulfonic acid can be recycled as SO2 and acetaldehyde.
Mixed culture fermentation of biomass to fuels and chemicals
Non sterile mixed culture fermentations are robust, reliable and inexpensive means of converting low value biomass resources to fuels and chemicals. Anaerobic digestion, to produce either mixed organic acids or biogas are applied as means of adding value to municipal and industrial wastes, as well as harvested biomass. Mixed organic acids in particular provide a versatile chemical platform from which to derive a wide variety of valuable organic molecules and biofuels.