476048 Life-Cycle Environmental and Techno-Economic Analysis of Novel Biomass Thermochemical and Electrochemical Energy Systems

Sunday, November 13, 2016
Continental 4 & 5 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Qi Dang, Bioeconomy Institute, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

Research Interests:

Our focus has shifted from fossil energy to renewable energy sources due to environmental pollution, global warming, and sustainable development issues caused by the consumption of fossil fuels. As a promising renewable alternative, biomass has been playing a critical role in enhancing the nations’ energy security and mitigating carbon emissions. My research has focused on thermochemical conversion of biomass into fuels, electric power, and chemicals through experimental investigation, process modeling using Aspen Plus, and life-cycle environmental and techno-economic analysis.

I have been involved in several projects working as a post-doc researcher at Iowa State University. We have proposed a novel strategy for reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants based on the utilization of bio-oil and biochar sequestration. This approach provides a sustainable and economical pathway to meeting life-cycle carbon reduction targets in the power sector. We have developed new methods for optimizing revenues from various product portfolios via fast pyrolysis and upgrading in an integrated biorefinery including drop-in transportation biofuels, biobased products, and hydrocarbon chemicals production. The findings from this analysis shed light on product selection and risk mitigation for investors from the bioproduct industry. In more recent work, we explore hybrid thermochemical and electrochemical methods for electricity, fuels, and chemicals generation and focus on three novel system designs: direct biomass fuel cell, biomass electrolyzer, and CO2electrolyzer. The potential economic advantages and challenges are identified from this analysis.

During my Ph.D. program, I explored transportation biofuel production via thermochemical conversion of agriculture residues (rice husk and corn stover). My work spanned from helping setting up the experimental platform (reactor with a volume of 100mL, 300mL and 10L respectively) to conducting experiments on the catalytic upgrading of fast pyrolysis bio-oil in supercritical ethanol/methanol system. The optimal reaction conditions and catalysts for this bio-oil upgrading method were proposed. I further enhanced my experimental experience by converting model compounds of algae biomass to biofuels through hydrothermal liquefaction. In addition, I focused on employing modeling tools such as GREET and SimaPro to evaluate the environmental performance of different bio-oil upgrading pathways.

My future research interests are applying a combination of experimental and modeling tools to better understand novel biomass conversion technologies and help advance the development of these technologies. Specific research interests include experimental investigation of biofuels, chemicals and power generation from thermochemical processes, process modeling, and evaluation of bioenergy systems from environmental and techno-economic perspectives.

Teaching Interests:

I would like to teach both undergraduate and graduate level courses such as introduction to mechanical engineering, energy and power system, biorenewable technologies, chemical process modeling, life-cycle environmental and techno-economic analysis which are closely related to my research. By integrating my research in my teaching, I can enhance the engagement of students in certain types of research. I hope my students can get some hands-on experience and a better understanding of core engineering concepts by employing state-of-the-art engineering tools to solve real engineering problems after finishing the courses.

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