I came to USU in 2011 from Virginia Tech. As one of USU’s newer USTAR hires, my research centers around technology that will turn various organic materials into fuel. I became interested in this field because I grew up on a farm. Growing up, I always asked myself, “What can we do with all of these raw materials?” When I went to college, I knew the biggest challenge facing our time would be energy, whether we liked it or not. In that case, I knew that’s where I should be.
I have been working in this area for over a decade. When I was at Virginia Tech, poultry farms came tome with a problem in need of a solution. More than 5.6 million tons of poultry litter are produced each year in the United States. All of this waste is smelly, bulky, hard to transport, and can lead to dangerous phosphorus pollution. Once I analyzed the droppings, I realized that the pyrolysis process can be used to turn the poultry waste into biofuel. Think of it as “poop power.” This fuel can be used just like regular gasoline – my students at VA Tech used fuel they created rather than bought to drive over 1,500 miles to a football game. Here at USU we are continuing that same exciting work.
My lab is called the Thermochemical Lab. It is here that my students and I practice the concept of pyrolysis – converting organic material into liquid fuels. Nature takes billions of years to convert organic material to crude oil. We cannot wait for that long so what we are trying to do is find a way to make oil for ourselves; if we can do this, we can literally grow our fuel.