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By Crystal Carter, Texas A&M Innovation, June 11, 2024

Mark Holtzapple is a professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University, a prolific inventor, and director of the Holtzapple Lab. His work converting biomass to industrial chemicals and fuels has led to the commercialization of innovative technology and generated revenue back to The Texas A&M University System.

Innovative solutions are critical to transitioning from fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Mark Holtzapple, a professor at Texas A&M University in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, has created a method to turn waste into essential fuels and chemicals. The developed technology transforms renewable energy by converting biomass into valuable fuels. “In my opinion, the only viable approach to addressing global warming is through invention,” said Holtzapple. Bio-based ingredients company BioVeritas recently began using Holtzapple’s process commercially.

The Process: An Overview

The MixAlco Process was invented by Holtzapple as to convert a wide variety of biomass feedstocks, including agricultural residues, municipal solid waste, manure, and algae, into fuels (e.g., jet fuel, and gasoline) and other useful chemicals (e.g., alcohols, aldehydes, aromatics). The process leverages a series of biological and chemical steps to break down complex carbohydrates in the biomass into acetic acid, which is then converted into valuable fuels such as ethanol and butanol. This approach is distinct from traditional biofuel production methods, which often rely on food crops like corn and sugarcane, potentially leading to competition with food supply and rising prices.

A Viable Path Forward

Holtzapple’s innovative approach addresses several key challenges in the renewable energy sector. As the world grapples with the needs for new energy solutions, Holtzapple’s technology is set to play a pivotal role in reducing our carbon footprint. “Inventors, such as myself, must create new technologies that replace traditional technologies because of superior economics and performance, that also happen to be carbon neutral, or carbon negative,” Holtzapple said. “We must address global warming without negatively impacting our economy; otherwise, addressing the problem will simply be pushed into the future until it is too late.”

Looking Ahead

With 52 issued U.S. patents and currently in his 39th year at Texas A&M, Holtzapple has no plans to slow down. “My focus will be to support the number of companies that have spun out from my work with the objective of enhancing technology commercialization,” said Holtzapple. So far, Bioveritas has raised over $160 million and has about $200 million committed to build the first commercial plant, in Bryan, Texas starting in August 2024.  The first product is expected to be available on the market in 2027. Other companies that have spun out of Holtzapple’s work include StarRotor, CryoL, Cascade Water Solutions, Pinnacle Propulsion, Quantum Forge, and NozeSeal.

Photo caption: Dr. Mark Holtzapple pictured in a staff photo. Texas A&M University

Texas A&M Innovation promotes an innovative and entrepreneurial culture among A&M’s research community and uses a rigorous process to guide projects from new innovations through market commercialization. We encourage industry partnerships, support startups and entrepreneurial commercialization, make connections to mentors, funding, and other critical resources to accelerate commercialization of System IP. Through our work we strive to promote regional economic development, and ultimately impact the lives of people locally, nationally and globally.

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