IPST Doctoral Student Explores Process to Convert Lignin into Gasoline-compatible Liquid Fuel

Wei Mu is in IPST's doctoral program in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering on an IPST Paper Science and Engineering Fellowship.

Jan. 7, 2013 (IPST) - More than 50 million tons of lignin are produced in the paper industry each year with 98% of it burned for energy, according to IPST (Institute of Paper Science and Technology) doctoral student Wei Mu.

Today, Wei is exploring other value-added opportunities for lignin, including the catalytic conversion of lignin into gasoline-compatible liquid fuel.

Wei, who entered the doctoral program in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering on an IPST Paper Science and Engineering Fellowship, is supervised by Professor Yulin Deng of IPST and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Wei plans to graduate with his PhD in December 2013.

Wei’s research employs a two-step conversion of lignin into a liquid transportation fuel. The first step is pyrolysis, which decomposes lignin into smaller molecules. Step two is upgrading, which increases the hydrogen amount and partially removes oxygen. The upgrading step requires robust and active catalysts. His research focuses on the catalyst synthesis step and reaction kinetics modeling.

Wei’s research has captured international attention, most recently at the International Conference of Bioengineering and Technology (ICBT) in Nanjing, China. He presented two papers at ICBT: “Lignin Pyrolysis Components and Upgrading – Technology Review,” by Mei Wu and Professor Yulin Deng (ChBE); and “Catalytic Hydrodeoxygenation of Pyrolysis Oil Derived from Lignin,” by Mei Wu, Haoxi Ben, Professor Yulin Deng (ChBE), and Professor Art Ragauskas (Chem).

After his return, he participated in the Annual Meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he also presented two papers: “Catalytic Hydrodeoxygenation of Pyrolysis Oil Derived from Lignin,” by Mei Wu, Haoxi Ben, Professor Yulin Deng (ChBE), and Professor Art Ragauskas (Chem); and “ANOVA Study of Reaction Condition Effect on Hydrodeoxygenation,” by Wei Mu and Professor Yulin Deng (ChBE).

As part of his master’s work in Paper Science and Chemical Engineering at Miami University in Ohio, Wei conducted research at the Argonne National Laboratories in Illinois, to synthesize new materials for semi-conductors using layers. He has industry experience with the Hercules Paper Division and Hercules Paper Technologies and Ventures in China, prior to earning his master’s degree and coming to Georgia Tech for his PhD.

For information about IPST, please visit: ipst.gatech.edu

SOURCE: Institute of Paper Science and Technology (IPST)