Tester Group | MIT Chemical Engineering

Biomass Fuels via Hydrothermal Conversion

Researchers: Andrew Peterson, Michael Johnson
Principal Investigator: Professor Jefferson Tester

We work on three projects within the biomass-to-fuels area:

1. Production of methane from waste biomass using catalytic conversion in supercritical water.

In a joint project with the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland, we are developing a robust process to take a wide range of waste biomass and convert it into methane and associated nutrient salts. Specifically, we are working through the issues of the effect of salts in the catalytic system, and how to effectively separate them without fouling the catalyst.

Lead researchers: Andrew Peterson (MIT), Maurice Waldner (PSI)
Associated researcher: Morgan Fröling (MIT, Life-Cycle Assessment)

2. Production of petroleum substitutes from turkey waste by conversion in subcritical water.

Through means of chemical conversion in moderate temperature and pressure water, most organic waste can be broken down into valuable components, including a petroleum substitute, carbon black, and fertilizers. This process has been developed and commercialized by Changing World Technologies. We are working to further understand the chemistry of this conversion process, with an eye on decreasing the production of unwanted by-products.

Lead researchers: Andrew Peterson, Russ Lachance
Associated researcher: Morgan Fröling (Life-Cycle Assessment)

3. Conversion of microalgae to oil in hydrothermal systems.

Algae have enormous potential as a future biofuel feedstock. We are assessing the abilities of doing the conversion to a biocrude oil in hydrothermal systems

Lead researchers: Michael Johnson (MIT), Andrew Peterson (MIT)
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