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Scientists Develop Renewable Fuel Additives from Sawdust

Profs. Mack and Wong

12/12/2018
World Industrial Reporter

UMass Lowell scientists have won a three-year, $1 million DOE grant to develop renewable fuel additives from sawdust.

The project is part of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Co-Optima initiative to develop fuel and engine innovations that work together to maximize vehicle performance and fuel economy.

“The additives, which are derived from sustainable raw materials, will help offset the use of traditional fossil fuels in internal combustion engines in cars and trucks as well as in steam turbines for power generation,” intoned team lead and assistant professor Hunter Mack.

“Our lab’s goal is to increase energy efficiency, reduce emissions and identify other potential sustainable fuels and chemicals of the future.”

“Just like the unleaded gasoline you fill your car with, which can contain up to 10 percent ethanol by volume, the additive is intended to be mixed with traditional petroleum-based fuel like diesel to displace some volume of diesel with something renewable and help cut down the vehicle’s carbon footprint,” said Mack.

In addition to Mack, the UMass Lowell researchers working on this project include Assistant Professor Hsi-Wu Wong, and graduate students Martia Shahsavan and Mohammad Morovatiyan.

“We focus on transportation because the transportation sector is so heavily dependent on petroleum-based fuels,” said Wong.

“Sawmills and other forest industry operations have a lot of leftover biomass that needs to be disposed of, so we’re offering a way to convert it into something useful and even profitable,” Mack said.

According to Wong, there is enough woody biomass waste available to make the process economically viable.

One of the major beneficiaries of this project could be the paper-making industry, which has in general been on a decline.

The project will help provide the paper industry with a new source of revenue for its sawdust in order to make biofuels, biopolymers and other bio-derived products.