Dr. Mark Holtzapple has developed a process that converts biodegradable materials, such as sewage sludge or food waste, into fuels and chemicals.
By Michelle Revels, Texas A&M University Engineering – February 1, 2023
In the last 200 years, society has undergone major energy transitions associated with introducing new energy sources, such as coal, oil and natural gas. To address climate change, the world must experience another energy transition where fuels and chemicals are sourced from sustainable feedstocks.
The only practical, sustainable feedstock is biomass — anything that is biodegradable. Although there are fuels and chemicals currently made from biomass, such as corn, sugar and vegetable oil, these feedstocks are not sufficiently abundant to be scalable. Process innovations are required to access more plentiful biomass feedstocks to achieve feasible, long-term solutions.
Dr. Mark Holtzapple, professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, has spent over three decades creating a method to convert biomass into essential fuels and chemicals, such as jet fuel and acetic acid.
“Rather than disposing of biomass waste in a landfill, we can use this renewable resource as a raw material,” said Holtzapple. “This can significantly impact society by providing a valuable way to utilize wastes, which helps the environment, addresses global warming, enhances human health and alleviates the need for fossil fuels.”
Recently, the bio-based ingredients company BioVeritas began commercializing Holtzapple’s process. By 2025, the process will be operational, with the goal of producing 20,000 tons of product per year.