About the Center for Biorefining

The mission of Center for Biorefining is to coordinate the University efforts and resources to conduct exploratory fundamental and applied research; provide education on bioenergy, biochemicals and biomaterials; stimulate collaboration among the University researchers, other public sector investigators, and private investigators involved in biobased production technology development; promote technology transfer to industries; and foster economic development in rural areas.

News

Xcel Energy RDF project to develop scalable biomass to electricity technology

01/12/2017 - 15:04

Researchers at the Center for Biorefining received $1 million grant from Xcel Energy RDF program. The three years project, led by Drs. Roger Ruan and Paul Chen, is aimed to develop and demonstrate innovative technology to convert Minnesota biomass to renewable electricity. The core of the proposed technology is fast microwave assisted gasification (fMAG). In the past, the researchers focused on microwave assisted pyrolysis of biomass, whose primary product is liquid fuel. Unlike biomass incineration, biomass gasification is cleaner and more efficient, and the produced syngas offers greater flexibility and applications in a wider varieties of power generation methods. In addition, gasification technology can be operated in scales suitable for distributed/decentralized power generation, and hence compatible with the distributed nature of biomass feedstock production. The key deliverable of the project is the construction and demonstration of a biomass to electricity equipment upon completion of the project.

Center for Biorefining awarded USDA-NIFA CAP and industry grants to develop technologies for non-thermal pasteurization of powdered foods

08/18/2016 - 12:09

Powdered foods such as milk powder, egg powder, spices, etc., are widely used as ingredients in manufacturing processed foods or consumed directly by humans and animals for their energy and nutrient contents. Inappropriate and insufficient decontamination have led to numerous outbreaks of foodborne diseases in recent years. Different physical and chemical processes have been used to decontaminate powdered foods. However, these processes have various defects, making their application ineffective and sometime impractical. A UMN team led by Dr. Roger Ruan was awarded $3.6 million to develop and demonstrate technology for non-thermal pasteurization of powdered foods.  This Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) project, integrating research with extension activities, addresses the program area “Enhancing Food Safety through Improved Processing Technologies” by developing an intense pulsed light (IPL) based technology for non-thermal pasteurization of powdered foods. IPL is an emerging technology for overcoming these defects. In this project, a continuous IPL process will be investigated for its germicidal effectiveness and also its impacts on physical, chemical, nutritional, and sensory properties of representative powdered foods. A prototype IPL system will be designed and constructed through the consultations with industry partners and stakeholders. The research activities on the system will cover process optimization in lab and the field trials with industry partners, while the extension activities will include workshops to demonstrate its usage to the stakeholders.

In a separate project funded by a major powdered food manufacturer, Dr. Ruan and his co-workers are developing non-thermal plasma based technology to pasteurize milk powder.

For more information and progress on the project, please visit http://iplforfoodsafety.cfans.umn.edu.

Bioenergy and Food Projects awarded to Center for Biorefining

09/25/2014 - 12:02

The Center recently received funding for several projects aimed to boost research and development efforts to utilize wastes and residues for production of bioenergy and healthy food products:

  1. $1,000,000 from LCCMR to demonstrate innovative technologies for complete utilization of wastewater resources. The technologies involve microalgae biomass production, scum-biodiesel, and sludge conversion.
  2. $125,910 from MNDrive for developing a unique non-thermal processing platform to improve nutritional value and microbial safety of food products.
  3. $150,000  from MNDrive to support three collaborative projects to creating added value from Minnesota food and agricultural waste streams by recycling nutrients through microalgae production, thermochemical conversion, and ammonia production.
  4. $125,000 from Sun Grants and IREE for development of novel fast pyrolysis and gasification processes
  5. $184,366 from  Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station for conversion of turkey wastes to energy via fast pyrolysis and gasification
  6. $378,833 from Sun Grants to develop processes for distributed production of DME based fuels using microwave technology and direct catalytic synthesis
  7. $250,000 from Minnesota Corn Growers Association and IREE for non-thermal plasma assisted synthesis of ammonia from renewable hydrogen.

LCCMR Metro Site Visit to the Center Research Facilities

08/01/2014 - 11:54

On July 29, 2014, LCCMR members and staff visited our research facilities at UMore Park, Rosemount, MN. Center director Prof. Ruan briefed the group on the progress and accomplishments of the past the current LCCMR funded projects. The group later toured the facilities including an outdoor algae production facility and a mobile microwave assisted pyrolysis system, and interacted with Prof. Ruan’s team members.Several industrial partners from Minnesga and enVerde were present.

LCCMR has awarded three projects to the center: (1) ML 2007 5o – “Pyrolysis Pilot Project” was carried out to demonstrate microwave assisted pyrolysis (MAP) technology for converting biomass feedstock to biofuels. A mobile MAP system was built for demonstration. (2) ML 2010 7a – “Algae for Fuels Pilot Project” was conducted to  demonstrate innovative microalgae production technology utilizing and treating sanitary wastewater to produce biofuels from algae. Two pilot facilities were built for demonstration. (3) ML 2014 8c – “Demonstrating innovative technologies to fully utilize wastewater resources” is designed to demonstrate commercialization feasibility of the technologies we developed to utilize and treat wastewater streams to produce biofuels. Major accomplishments/outcomes from these projects include:

  1. Pilot/demo facilities: 2 MAP systems, 3 algae cultivation facilities. 
  2. Number of demonstration: > 15
  3. Patents/disclosures filed: 3
  4. Other funding/grants: > 10 grants, totaling over $3 millions from government agencies and industry 
  5. Collaborators/partners: MCES, 3M, UMore Park (Rosemount), Minnesga Inc., Rural Advantage, enVerde, LLC., SCP Control, etc. 
  6. Papers: over >80;
  7. public presentations: > 80.

Here are some of the pictures taken during the visit.

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CFANS Solutions Magazine reports Drs. Ruan and Chen’s research on food engineering

06/02/2014 - 12:06

“American consumers are tough customers. Not only do we want our food healthy and safe but we want it to be minimally processed as well as long-lasting. It can be difficult to achieve the twin goals of food stability and freshness but faculty members in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering are engaged in several projects to make food safer and more nutritious.”  Read article (.pdf)

biorefining plaque