Source: NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIV submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2010
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2015
Grant Year
Project Director
Venditti, R. A.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Forest Biomaterials
Non Technical Summary
The production of renewable biofuels has been identified as a United States national priority as means to reduce dependence on foreign energy. In 2008, the United States produced 9.1 billion gallons of ethanol for transportation fuel - nearly all of this ethanol was produced from starch-based corn kernels. The conversion of corn starch to fuel has been controversial on several fronts, including the trade-off of "food vs. fuel" and the net energy generated from this process. Lignocellulosic biomass, such as forest and agricultural resources, has been clearly identified as a preferred renewable feedstock. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set a target of 36 billion gallons of ethanol produced by 2022, including 21 billion gallons from advanced materials, such as lignocellulosic biomass. Extensive research and commercialization efforts are critically important to meet these goals. One of the most promising and efficient technologies for bioethanol production is based on the biochemical platform, which utilizes intensive pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis of carbohydrates, and subsequent fermentation of mixed sugars to produce ethanol, butanol, ort other biofuels. This fast-growing field demands excellent research leaders with a comprehensive perspective on biofuels science and technology. However, understanding the entire process is challenging due to its multidisciplinary nature. For example, biochemistry and genetics are required to understand the feedstock modification such as tree improvement and energy crop plantation. Chemistry and chemical engineering concepts are used to design pretreatment processes. Molecular biology is needed to understand enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation. Life cycle analysis tools are important to understand effects on the environment. Disconnections between different disciplines will be a huge obstacle to develop this growing area. The objective of this proposal is to develop an education program for a new generation of researchers who understand the entire spectrum of biofuels science and engineering to meet the future national needs for technologically advanced scientists in the area of lignocellulosic biofuels. Five focus areas define this integrated and comprehensive training: (1) Feedstock improvement and genetics; (2) Biomass pretreatment; (3) Enzymatic hydrolysis; (4) Fermentation; and (5) Life cycle analysis and policy impact. This program incorporates cross-disciplinary teamwork/advising, coursework in multiple disciplines, experiences at a pilot plant operation (Golden Leaf Foundation) and exposure to external biofuel research scientists. The three doctoral graduates of this program will be uniquely prepared to lead research in the United States biofuels industry.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The goal of this proposal is to develop an education program for a new generation of researchers who understand the entire spectrum of biofuels science and engineering to meet the future national needs for technologically advanced scientists in the area of lignocellulosic biofuels. Output of this project will be three doctoral students graduated in agricultural sciences.
Project Methods
In the first semester of the Ph.D. study, the principal directors (PDs) of this proposal will commence as the fellow's co-advisors and assist them to register for courses. Coursework has been identified, that is multidisciplinary, and provides a holistic study of biofuels. Fellows will write a Biofuels Statement and Issue Paper during the first semester, with a multi-disciplinary viewpoint. The fellows will be asked to submit a short report on literature readings every week within a current weekly journal club in the area of biofuels production and biomass properties. Another important activity will be for fellows to interview all faculty members in the department and the partners in the project in order to develop an appreciation of all faculty talents, research activities, and equipment/infrastructure available. The department requires graduate students to complete qualifying exams and a preliminary exam before a final defense. After each exam, the PDs will evaluate the performance and provide recommendations for improvement. There will be a bi-monthly meeting among the fellows and the PDs to share progress and provide advisement and (re)direction if required. We will develop a portfolio for each student that will include grade transcripts, major reports, major presentations, all defense materials including committee reviews, any publications, and any other pertinent information needed to review their accomplishments at NCSU. The PDs and research committee will use a defined schedule as a guideline for satisfactory progress through the graduation. The PDs will report the performance measures as a quantitative standard in the quarterly progress report to the USDA. Qualitative interpretations will be included. Corrective actions will be taken by the PDs in consultation with the research committee as soon as possible to improve in needed areas.

Progress 09/01/10 to 08/31/15

Target Audience:Several groups of target audiences are identified. First, the NNF students had frequent contacts with departmental faculty and graduate students, and they made several research presentations within NCSU (department seminar, preliminary exam, etc). Second, the NNF students also presented their work at national conferences, where many experts in the field participated, including governmental officers, industry researchers, university faculty, and graduate students. Third, the NNF students presented their work during industrial consortium meetings (twice a year), where over 10 industry members joined. Lastly, the NNF students also performed as TA (teaching assistant) for the departmental undergraduate classes, where they had an opportunity to disseminate their workto undergraduate students. Changes/Problems:This project was successfully performed to train doctoral students in bioenergy field. We have followed the timeline and task list in the proposed. One variation is Pilot Plant Experience. Originally NCSU Pilot Plant was supposed to be completed in 2012, but it was significantly delayed. Therefore, this activity was replaced by either an internship (6 months in University of Conception, Chile) or a considerable experience including pilot plant scale activities at the NCSU Biomanufacturing Training and Education Centerprogram, where the NNF students can experience pilot scale research. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?- Financial support under NNF support - Doctoral research experience in the lab with various facility - Research presentation at national conference such as AIChE - Teaching opportunity as a teaching assistance - PFL program (Preparing Future Leaders) offered at NCSU - Internship during Ph.D. program: University of Concepcion, Chile for 6 months. Contacts made that should help in future student training. - Involvement with industrial consortium through WERC (Wood-to-Ethanol Research Consortium, 15 company members), BtB2 (Biomass to Biochemicals and Biomaterials Consortium, 8 company members), Tech support project with Industry. Contacts made that should help in future student training.? How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?The results were disseminated through several different outlets including (1) Journal publications, (2) National conferences (e.g. AIChE, SBFC), (3) Industrial consortium meeting (twice a year), (4) Seminars at other universities (e.g. University of Concepcion), and (5) Departmental seminars. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Nothing Reported

What was accomplished under these goals? The objective of this project is to develop a unique training program to produce outstanding graduates to meet a future generation of scientists and engineers who understand the entire spectrum of biofuels science and technology and also appreciate the chemical, biological, economic, and ecological impacts of their technology decisions. Overall, the faculty has developed a very holistic training plan that can be used in the future for students training in the biofuels area. Three graduate students (Brandon Jones, Drew Moore, and Ryan Barton) were financiallysupported by USDA-NNF and they are at the last year of their graduate program. Brandon Jones and Drew Moore are at the Forest Biomaterials Department, and Ryan Barton is at both the Forest Biomaterials and Chemical Engineering Department (dual degree). The students earned a Graduate Research Certificate, which provided formal training in research administration, personnel management, research ethics and communication skills. Their training has developed in all three of these researchers the ability to be leaders in the area of renewable energy and biorefinery. Research activities for Brandon Jones included the optimization of low-cost sugar production from biomass via biomass pretreatment (acidic, autohydrolysis) and mechanical refining, and enzymatic hydrolysis. His finding shows that, depending on the biomass chemistry such as lignin content, water retention value (WRV: g-H2O/g-biomass) is a strong indicator of the total sugar conversion improvement with mechanical refining. In addition, the cost benefit of mechanical refining was explained in his journal publications. He worked with biorefinery companies to test their pretreated biomasses, calculating the economic benefit of mechanical refining inclusion in the process. He completed a minor requirement of BTEC program (Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center) in NCSU. Brandon Jones already received a job offer from a company related in the field. Drew Moore's research activities involved the development of fast pyrolysis process to product bio-oil and its characterization. It was experimentally demonstrated that lower cellulose crystallinity and degree of polymerization produces more levoglucosan during fast pyrolysis of biomass. In addition, increasing the lignin content of biomass decreased the bio-oil yield, while increasing the yields of char, acids, and pyrolytic water. Advanced characterization techniques such as GC-MS, NMR, and MBMS were utilized in the project. He was invited and spent 6 months in Chile as an intern student. He has also obtained a job related in the field. Ryan Barton conducted experiments on catalytic conversion into aromatic compounds using lignin residue with is an underutilized byproduct from various industries including paper and pulp plants and biorefineries. Ni/HZSM-5 is used as a mutifunctional catalyst (nickel metal supported on zeolite solid acid support) capable of hydrodeoxygenation of aromatic compounds and hydrogenolysis of C-O linkages commonly found in the lignin macromolecule. This catalysts performs at low temperature (250°C), in an aqueous environment, with the presence of hydrogen. He was also invited and spent 6 months in Chile as an intern student. The students were involved in a great number of professional enhancement activities, including making presentations at local and international technical conferences (e.g. AIChE), tutoring and mentoring undergraduate students, presenting webinars, participating in study-abroad experiences, collaborating with other departments, universities and private companies, developing a website, performing teaching activities, and others. In addition, several peer-reviewed journal articles were published as a method to distribute and disseminate research findings. The preparation of these articles was integral in the professional development of the students.


  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2013 Citation: B.W. Jones, R. Venditti*, S. Park, H. Jameel, B. Koo, Enhancement in enzymatic hydrolysis by mechanical refining for pretreated hardwood lignocellulosics, Bioresource Technology, 147: 353-360 (2013)
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2014 Citation: B.W. Jones, R. Venditti*, S. Park, H. Jameel, Comparison of lab, pilot, and industrial scale low consistency mechanical refining for improvements in enzymatic digestibility of pretreated hardwood, Bioresource Technology, 167: 514-520 (2014)
  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2015 Citation: A. Moore, S. Park, C. Segura, M. Carrier*, Fast pyrolysis of lignin-coated radiata pine, Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, Accepted (2015)
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2014 Citation: AIChE 2014, INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON ENERGY (ICE) Comparison of Lab, Pilot, and Commercial Scale Low Consistency Mechanical Refining for Improvements in Enzymatic Digestibility of Pretreated Hardwood Brandon W. Jones, Richard Venditti, Sunkyu Park and Hasan Jameel
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2014 Citation: AIChE 2014 INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON ENERGY (ICE) Multi-Scale Investigation for the Effect of Mechanical Refining for Pretreated Lignocellulosic Biomass on the Subsequent Enzymatic Hydrolysis Junyeong Park, Wenhui Geng, Kabindra Kafle, Brandon W. Jones, Seong H. Kim and Sunkyu Park
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: J. Meng, J. Park, A. Moore, D. Tilotta, S. Adhikari, S. Kelley, S. Park, Nature of torrefaction effect on producing high-quality fuel intermediate via fast pyrolysis, AIChE Annual Meeting, November 2013, San Francisco, CA
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: S. Park, B. Jones, R. Venditti, H. Jameel, Mechanical refining to enhance enzymatic hydrolysis of pretreated biomass, 21st European Biomass Conference and Exhibition, June 2013, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2013 Citation: B. Jones, R. Venditti, H. Jameel, S. Park, Mechanical refining to enhance enzymatic hydrolysis of pretreated biomass, 35th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, May 2013, Portland, OR
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2012 Citation: A. Moore, J. Meng, R. Venditti, D. Tilotta, and S. Park, Effect of crystallinity and degree of polymerization on the fast pyrolysis decomposition products of cellulose, AIChE Annual Meeting, October 2012, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Type: Conference Papers and Presentations Status: Other Year Published: 2012 Citation: B. Jones, B. Koo, H. Jameel, S. Park, and R. Venditti, Refining as an effective post-treatment for enzymatic hydrolysis in bioethanol production, AIChE Annual Meeting, October 2012, Pittsburgh, PA