Rice U. Recognized for Biodiesel By-Product Research

John Davis

A Rice University researcher has been recognized for his work on the biodiesel by-product glycerin.

Biodiesel Magazine reports that Dr. Ramon Gonzalez has picked up the 2010 Glycerin Innovation Award sponsored by the Soap and Detergent Association and the National Biodiesel Board at the Annual Meeting & Expo of the American Oil Chemists’ Society for his work using a non-pathogenic form of E. coli to turn glycerin into high value fuels and chemicals:

Dr. Gonzalez and his team of researchers identified the metabolic processes and conditions that allow a known strain of E. coli to convert glycerin into ethanol. Glycerin is a byproduct of biodiesel production.

“The biodiesel process converts fats or oils into biodiesel and glycerin, with one pound of glycerin produced for every 10 pounds of biodiesel,” said Steve Howell, NBB Technical Director. “Glycerin is a sustainable natural sugar, and it is necessary to remove all the glycerin in order to meet the stringent ASTM specifications for biodiesel.”

The Rice researchers discovered innovative pathways and mechanisms that mediate glycerol fermentation in E. coli. That enabled their efforts to develop new technologies for converting glycerol into high-value chemicals. In essence, they designed strains of E. coli that could produce a range of products from biofuels, ethanol, hydrogen and organic acids.

The technologies are being made available for the commercial marketlicensed commercially so they can be brought to market.

Biodiesel, NBB