Low value biomass (agricultural and forestry residues, animal manure, algae and agri-food processing waste) is one alternative source for fuels and chemicals that can be used to address environmental issues.
“My research uses techniques to turn biomass wastes into crude bio-oil,” explains Dr. Quan (Sophia) He, assistant professor in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture. “This research will strengthen and diversify the agriculture industry.”
With equipment purchased through funding from the Nova Scotia Research Innovation Trust (NSRIT) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the crude bio-oil effort has the potential to benefit the pharmaceutical industry and creating an alternative to petroleum products. The equipment includes a variety of specialized analyses units and a microwave-assisted nanomaterial synthesis system used to create materials used in biomass conversion, bio-oil upgrading and biodiesel production.
“This area of research in multidisciplinary, creating a thriving training environment,” says Dr. He. “Up to five students in each of the first two years will build their knowledge in the areas of renewable energy, biofuels, bio-products, catalysis, chirality chemistry and green engineering. We hope to increase to training ten students per year eventually.”
At the end of their training the students will be well prepared to compete for careers in the bioenergy, bioproducts, chemistry and engineering in Canada’s government, industry and Academia, says Dr. He.
The $125,000 provided by NSRIT has helped leverage more than $380,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the NSERC Discovery fund, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, Dalhousie University and the National Research Council.
“In response to the energy crisis and the deterioration of the environment, there is a rapidly growing interest in the development of biomass-based fuels and chemicals,” says Dr. He. “This interest creates new business opportunities for the agriculture industry and increased demand for trained students with expertise and broad knowledge in this area.”