Professors Smith and Wilson

  • Oct 5, 2017
  • Angela Wilson, Milton Smith

Michigan State University scientists, including MSU Chemistry Professor Milton Smith and Hannah Professor Angela Wilson, join a team, led by Associate Professor Wei Liao (Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering), that explore new algae-based technologies to capture power plant emissions and sustainably turn them into valuable products.

The research project, funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, unites faculty from the MSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and the MSU Chemistry Department with industry experts in a three-year cross-disciplinary effort.

Research has shown that photosynthetic green algae is capable of capturing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but natural forces alone cannot match the output of a conventional power plant.

A single 100-megawatt coal-fired power plant releases between 3,000 and 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each day. Matching this would require thousands of acres of land to culture algae — something far from feasible for most power plant facilities.

Professor Liao and his team will apply a process called “biomass cascade conversion,” which fully optimizes the components of algae for the production of high-value chemicals and biofuels.

Byproducts from the cascade conversion include polyurethanes, biodiesel, and other value-added chemicals and fuels for a wide range of applications.

In addition to Professors Liao, Smith, and Wilson, other MSU team members include Yan “Susie” Liu and Robert Morgan.