Sections

Biofuels & Bioproducts Technology Development

Energy production and use are strong indicators of economic robustness and high living standards. Global energy demand is projected to grow dramatically within the next 50 years, but at the same time the public is concerned about energy security, climate change, and environmental pollution. Clearly, our country needs policies and technologies that enhance energy conservation and promote renewable energy production from sustainable natural resources.

Given the critical nature of energy, we have made renewable energy R&D and education top priorities at the College with a focus on technology development in biofuels (ethanol, biodiesel, and green hydrocarbons) and biopower from cellulosic biomass and algae.

George Philippidis, Ph.D.
Phone: (813) 974-9333
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Read more about Dr. Philippidis ».
1.24.14 WFLA Interview

Focus Areas

Biofuels & Bioproducts from Biomass

   
Biomass conversion pilot plant integrated inside a commercial sugarcane mill in Florida.Biomass is an abundant and inexpensive domestic feedstock for biorefineries designed to produce value-added products and clean power. Florida ranks first in the country in annual biomass production with sugarcane bagasse and yard waste in South Florida, citrus peel and agricultural residues in Central Florida, and woody biomass in Northern Florida.

We test and optimize the conversion of various biomass species to sugars in scalable and cost-effective ways through biochemical conversion. First, biomass is pretreated using mild conditions and green chemistry principles. Then, cellulase enzymes are employed to convert cellulose to simple sugars. Those sugars can form the basis of a sustainable green economy, as they are readily convertible via fermentation to a variety of chemical precursors for the manufacture of biofuels, plastics, nutraceuticals, and other renewable products. In essence, biomass can replace oil as the source of chemicals essential for consumer products.

A biorefinery pilot plant has been designed and operated in partnership with a sugar company inside one of its sugarcane mills in Florida. It provides USF and its collaborators with unique process development and scale-up capabilities in a real-world environment.


Algae Technology

   
Novel cultivation systems are scaled-up and tested using native Floridian algae strains.
Indoor algae systems for technology development, demonstration, and testing.
Algae represent another promising source of alternative fuels and bioproducts, but with the added benefit of serving as a sink for carbon dioxide and wastewater. Using our experience in algae engineering for the production of chemicals and fuels, we use native Floridian algae strains at our lab and pilot facilities to generate algal products. Algal lipids can be transesterified to produce biodiesel or can be thermally treated to produce aviation- and military-specification fuels. Algal sugars can be used to produce a myriad of chemicals via fermentation, whereas algal protein can serve as animal feed and fish food.

Our efforts are focused on:
  • Design of novel cost-effective cultivation platforms
  • Scale-up and operation of algae production systems
  • Optimization of productivity
  • Water, nutrient, and energy management
  • Co-product development

  • These technical capabilities are supplemented with business experience in assessing the economic feasibility of algal technologies and projecting financial return to investors.


    Biodiesel

       
    Biodiesel from sustainable domestic sources can replace diesel from imported oil.Fuel diversification is needed for diesel and jet engines. The United States consumes 57 billion gallons of diesel and 5 billion gallons of military fuels annually, hence depending significantly on foreign oil. Such dependence renders the country vulnerable to political instability around the world.

    We have technical and business expertise in biodiesel production with a focus on sustainable technologies and resources:

  • Biodiesel production using supercritical fluid technology
  • Biodiesel from used vegetable oils
  • Biodiesel from algal lipids

  • Production of biodiesel is conducted in batch and continuous modes.  We are available to assist companies and communities in the production, distribution, and marketing aspects of their biodiesel business.
























     

    Experts

    George Philippidis, Ph.D.

       


    Dr. Philippidis is Associate Professor of Sustainable Energy and has over 20 years of experience in leading strategic business units in advanced biofuels and bioproducts. His main focus areas in the energy sector are:

  • Advanced biofuels production
  • Biomass conversion technologies
  • Algae technologies
  • Biomass-to-power systems
  • Integration of alternative energy into the existing infrastructure

  • Dr. Philippidis is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, has given several presentations and media interviews, and holds 11 US and world patents in cleantech. He leads the development and commercialization of cellulosic and algal biofuels, drop-in fuels, and value-added chemicals, as well as the integration and deployment of renewable energy systems. Dr. Philippidis works closely with the private sector, venture capital firms, and equity investors to bring clean technologies to the market place. He advises US and international companies and governments on biofuels and renewable power technologies, energy policy and trade, public-private partnerships, market development, intellectual property management and project financing.

    Dr. Philippidis obtained his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and MBA from the University of Denver. Before joining USF, he served as Associate Director of the Applied Research Center at FlU in Miami, where he created and directed the Center’s energy business. Previously, he was the Business Director at a subsidiary of Thermo Fisher Scientific, a Fortune 500 company in the Boston area, where he commercialized composite products. Dr. Philippidis started his career at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Denver, where he directed a joint venture between the Department of Energy (DOE) and Amoco Corporation in biofuels development and commercialization.


    Ioannis Dogaris, Ph.D.

       


    Dr. Dogaris is a postdoctoral researcher in sustainable energy at the Patel College of Global Sustainability. His research interests and expertise include:

  • Advanced biofuels production
  • Enzymatic hydrolysis of biomass
  • Microbial fermentation technologies
  • Algae technologies
  • Dr. Dogaris holds a Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece, and B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biological Applications and Technologies from the University of Ioannina, Greece. As a researcher at NTUA he worked on cellulosic ethanol production. He has authored several articles in peer-reviewed international journals and has presented his research in numerous scientific conferences.


    Michael Welch

     

    Michael Welch is a research associate at the Biofuels and Bioproducts Lab of the Patel College of Global Sustainability. He specializes in the design and manufacture of novel photobioreactors, cultivation of algae, and scale-up operations.

    Welch got his start in renewable energy as an undergraduate research student at the University of South Florida, where he researched the use of wastewater for fuel production from algae. He has a BS in Biochemistry from USF.


    Terry-René W. Brown

       

    René is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Integrative Biology Department with a joint appointment at the Patel College of Global Sustainability.  She has a M.S. in Environmental Management from Duke University and a B.S. in Biology/Natural Resource Management from Moravian College. 

    René specializes in Environmental and Ecological Microbiology with an emphasis on microbial climate change mitigation and monitoring.  Her current research focuses on growth optimization of microalgae for biofuel production.  She has previously conducted research on elevated CO2 effects on freshwater algae and CO2 uptake by a marine hydrothermal vent bacterium.

    René has 18 years of experience in land conservation and management in Florida.  She is a founding board member and past president of the Tampa Bay Conservancy.  She is a recipient of the Biosphere Atmosphere Research and Training Fellowship (funded by the NSF through the University of Michigan) and has served as a Civil Society Delegate at two UN Climate Change Conferences. 


    Zachary Cerniga

     


    Zach is a M.S. candidate in the Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Department with a joint appointment at the Patel College of Global Sustainability. He has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from USF and his research interests include:

  • Biodiesel processing
  • Feedstock and biofuel characterization
  • Supercritical fluid technology

  • Zach’s current work focuses on optimizing production of biodiesel using different sources of vegetable oils, from refined soybean oil to waste cooking oils, under supercritical conditions.  This involves operating a tubular reactor at elevated pressures and temperatures, characterizing reaction products and feedstocks, and modeling the system using process simulation software.  Future work will include catalysis-aided biodiesel production with supercritical fluids.


    Shriyash Deshpande

     


    Shriyash is a M.S. candidate in the Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Department with a joint appointment at the Patel College of Global Sustainability.  He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pune, India.  His current research focuses on conversion of algal lipids and algae biomass to biodiesel using supercritical technology.  He has previously worked on bio-hydrogen production, solid oxide fuel cells, and sludge treatment. 








    Partnerships

    Private Sector


    A leading US sugar producer and North America’s first fully integrated cane sugar company. The company’s renewable energy facility is the largest of its kind in North America and provides clean energy from sugarcane bagasse and wood waste.


    An innovative micro algae technology provider for large-scale outdoor production regardless of algae strain and final product. Its floating cultivation system is readily scalable and combines the operating advantages of indoor photobioreactors with the low cost of outdoor ponds.


    A US-based integrator of renewable energy (including biogas), air quality, and low-carbon solutions. The company provides engineering, financing, operations, regulatory, and carbon market expertise and takes care of the entire project development cycle.

    Public Sector

    Florida¹s Charlotte County welcomes the development of sustainable technologies that can diversify the local economy, attract investment, and create new job opportunities.  The County already operates a 108-acre facility where landfill gas is captured and used for on-site power generation, whereas leachate water is treated and sequestered.

    The Florida Energy Systems Consortium (FESC) brings together the renewable energy activities of Florida¹s universities and coordinates leading-edge research and development and student education.  The Consortium promotes collaborative interdisciplinary research with the energy industry, assists with student education and community outreach, shares research results with a wide audience, and assists in the development of energy policy in Florida.

    The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recognizes the State’s strong potential in renewable energy and supports research and development in a variety of areas, including algae and biomass development as sources of sustainable biofuels and byproducts.

     

    Publications

    George Philippidis: “Powering America with sustainable energy in the 21st century” (2012)

    George Philippidis et al.:  “Developing biofuels industry in small economies: Policy experiences and lessons from the Caribbean Basin Initiative”  (2012)

    George Philippidis:  “Reducing the United States’ Carbon Footprint” (2011)