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Wenqiao Yuan

Professor

D. S. Weaver Labs 265

Publications

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Grants

Date: 04/30/21 - 6/29/23
Amount: $100,000.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

We propose an innovative bioprocess that will produce high value cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) and butanol fuel from sustainable biomass feedstocks. Specifically, we will assess two biomass feedstocks: 1) poplar-derived market pulp and 2) CRISPR edited whole poplar biomass, as shown in Figure 1. Tailored hemicellulase and cellulase enzymes will be provided by Novozymes to selectively hydrolyze the hemicellulose and amorphous cellulose to generate free sugars and cellulose nanocrystals. The free sugars, both 5- and 6-carbon, will be fermented to butanol fuel via Clostridium saccharoperbutylacetonicum. After fermentation, butanol will serve two beneficial purposes for downstream separation operations: 1) butanol will act as a dispersant inhibiting hydrogen bonding and reducing nanocellulose agglomeration1 and 2) butanol will partially solubilize lignin thereby enhancing liquid/solid separation.2,3

Date: 07/15/19 - 7/14/22
Amount: $466,916.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA)

It is extremely important and urgent to develop fertilizers that can not only enhance crop yields, but also protect the environment by reducing nutrient losses! This project will develop a biochar-based organic fertilizer from an engineered biochar-manure co-aging (EBMCA) process. The resultant EBMCA fertilizer is expected to be superior to sole manure or biochar in that it enhances soil N retention capability and improves the synchrony between nutrient supply and nutrient need due to biochar’s unique characteristics: 1) A high ion exchange capacity (IEC) and a modifiable nature of IEC via abiotic and biotic oxidation processes; 2) A large surface area and porosity for carrying abundant and diverse beneficial microbes; 3) A powerful adsorption for retaining, stabilizing and buffering N from manure and soil. This project aims to characterize a number of properties and processes during the production and application of the fertilizer, includes five objectives: 1) Correlate gasification conditions with the chemical and physical properties of reproducible biochars as a bioenergy co-product in low-temperature gasification; 2) Elucidate the effects of the biochar quality and quantity on nutrient retention and/or loss during manure co-aging process; 3) Examine the impacts of the biochar-based organic fertilizer on soil properties and processes underlying soil nutrient release patterns and greenhouse gas emissions; 4) Evaluate the performance of the biochar-based organic fertilizer in terms of crop nutrient use efficiency, performance/quality, and yield;

Date: 06/15/15 - 5/31/21
Amount: $375,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The long-term goal of the proposed research is develop a sustainable alternative to asphalt binder in pavements. For an alternative binder to be viable as a replacement to asphalt cement, it must (a) be derived from renewable sources that can be produced economically in mass quantities, (b) require less energy and produce fewer emissions than the production and construction of concrete using current asphalt binder technology, and (c) demonstrate equal or superior performance over asphalt binder. To best meet these objectives, bio-binders will be produced using thermo-chemical conversion of biomass. Biomass feedstock and thermo-chemical conversion operating parameters will be varied in order to link inputs to produce a viable paving binder. Rigorous analyses of bio-binder chemical composition and properties will be conducted to assess the viability of bio-binders produced for use in pavements. In addition, preliminary trials of producing bio-binder – aggregate mixtures will be conducted using conventional laboratory methods for producing asphalt mixtures. Performance testing of bio-binder – aggregate mixtures will be conducted to assess their performance and to link critical bio-binder properties to the resultant performance of mixtures. In addition, life cycle analysis will be conducted to assess the sustainability of bio-binders compared to petroleum-based asphalts.

Date: 09/01/14 - 8/31/18
Amount: $70,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The main objective of this research is to fabricate a highly efficient and durable, membrane-based artificial photosynthesis device using novel lipids and enzymes from thermoacidophiles. The system will be capable of converting sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into carbohydrates for the production of biofuels such as ethanol. Microbe growth, protein and lipid purification and characterization, membrane biophysics, biochemical assays, various spectroscopic techniques such as fluorescence, circular dichroism, UV-visible and infrared, as well as Micro-Electro-Mechanical-System (MEMS) technology will be employed.

Date: 06/01/12 - 6/30/18
Amount: $361,870.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The long-term career goal of the PI is to enable economically viable energy manufacturing from renewable sources such as algae. The PI's vision is to produce algae, for biofuel manufacturing, on solid carriers (e.g., thin sheets of metals or polymers) that float in the ocean. The research objective of this CAREER proposal is to test the hypothesis that micro- and meso-scale structures of solid carriers enhance attachment of algae. Such structures (e.g., dimples or channels) will be fabricated on the surface of the carrier. Knowledge obtained from this research will foster design and manufacturing of solid carriers ? the major equipment proposed for manufacturing algae biofuels in the ocean. The approach includes (1) experimental study of cell attachment to structured carriers, (2) physics-based modeling of cell-carrier interactions, and (3) prediction of the effect of carrier structures on algae attachment using the surface element integration (SEI) technique. The education objective of this proposal is to impart a system-level integration of a manufacturing-education-enhancement based theme at high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels by (1) exposure of undergraduate and graduate students to interdisciplinary research through NSF-funded IGERT and REU programs and the Biomass Technologies Certificate Program at Kansas State University (KSU), (2) K-12 outreach through existing outreach programs at KSU, (3) course and curriculum development in energy manufacturing, and (4) involvement of women and minorities through KSU mentoring programs.

Date: 06/15/13 - 5/31/18
Amount: $135,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The main objective of this research is to fabricate an artificial photosynthesis device that is capable of converting sunlight, CO2 and water into sugars/glucose for the production of biofuels. Additive manufacturing (AM) enhanced by high-resolution heterogeneous material printing technology and multi-function nozzle array will be investigated to design and build the innovative device with multi-layer interconnected channels and micro-porous structures. This research will enable manufacturing and deployment of large-scale solar conversion systems that not only mimic the nature process of photosynthesis for the production of biofuels, but also make these reactions independent of the life of nature plants.

Date: 01/01/12 - 10/15/14
Amount: $38,360.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA)

The goal of this project is to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of biomass gasification through value-added utilization of biochar byproduct and effective syngas cleanup and enhancement. The novelty of the proposed work lies in two aspects: (1) it develops an inexpensive catalyst for effective syngas cleanup and conditioning and (2) it provides a value-added use of gasification by-product.

Date: 01/01/13 - 12/31/13
Amount: $20,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Research and Innovation Seed Funding Program

Currently, over 90% of pavements worldwide are constructed with an asphaltic surface, which results in use of 30 million tons of asphalt annually in the US alone. Asphalt is a byproduct of refining petroleum, a non-renewable resource and thus, supplies are diminishing. There is a need for development of alternative binders from bio-renewable resources. This project will investigate the use of bio-binders produced via hydrothermal conversion of biomass as an alternative to asphalt. Both micro algae and corn cob will be evaluated as biomass feedstock for production of bio-binders. Experimental characterization of bio-binders will be conducted to assess their potential use as paving binders.

Date: 01/01/12 - 7/31/13
Amount: $102,615.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The main objective of this research is to fabricate an artificial photosynthesis device that is capable of converting sunlight, CO2 and water into sugars for the production of biofuels. Solid freeform fabrication (SFF) enhanced by high-resolution heterogeneous printing technology will be investigated to design and build the innovative device with multi-layer interconnected channels and micro-porous structures. This research will enable manufacturing and deployment of large-scale solar conversion systems that not only mimic the nature process of photosynthesis for the production of biofuels, but also make these reactions independent of the life of nature plants.

Date: 07/01/12 - 6/30/13
Amount: $5,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Faculty Research & Professional Development Fund

The long term goal of this new program is to enable cost-effective bio-hydrogen production using waste/low-value materials, such as hemicellulose in biomass. The objective of this proposal is to understand the effect of pH on bio-H2 generation of a sequential fermentation-microbial electrolysis system (SFMES) using xylose as the carbon source. Clostridium tyrobutyricum will be used to decompose xylose to make organic acids and H2 in the first step. The organic acids will then be fed to a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) in the second step to generate H2 on the cathode side. With the input of a low-cost, widely available carbon source, hydrogen will be produced in both steps. The project will lay the foundation for the PI (a new tenure-track faculty) to establish a new research program focusing on bio-H2 production, and will generate preliminary data for future grant proposals.


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