Hangin’ With Some Next Gen Biodiesel Scientists

During the National Biodiesel Board Conference (NBB) last week, I had the opportunity to hang out with some “Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel“. There were 10 in attendance at this year’s conference and the two that I spent time with were Evan Le, a senior studying mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada and Lucas Ellis, in a graduate Biochemical Engineering program at Dartmouth and a co-chair of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

I asked Le how he became involved in biodiesel and he said that it was actually a lot of professors pushing him in that direction and a lot of minor biodiesel projects in the courses he took that got him on his way. Eventually, his senior design project was to design a biodiesel project and he chose to focus on algae. This is when he truly discovered there is a lot of potential in biodiesel and he wanted to be one of the scientists who helps unlock this potential.

Le has just begun in career as a biodiesel scientist. He is going to spend the next two years working at Sandia National Laboratory where he will continue working with algae. He wants to focus on research on how to scale up algal biofuels from pilot to commercial scale. Today, he says, it takes too much energy to produce algal biofuels so they are not commercially viable. From there, he plans on working towards in Ph.D. in biodiesel.

While Le is focusing on algal biofuels, Lucas Ellis is actually focusing on cellulosic biofuels in his graduate program at Dartmouth, but he too is very interested in algae. However, he doesn’t feel that cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel compete, but rather are two complementary technologies that both have roles in energy production. Ellis also feels that the skills he is developing researching cellulosic ethanol, are the same skills needed to research and develop advanced biodiesel.

Ellis also fell into biodiesel, per se, while in his undergraduate program and once he got the biodiesel bug, it stayed with him. So when he was given the opportunity to become involved with Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, he jumped at the chance. Although the organization is relatively young with 30 founding members, they have a declaration that has been signed by more than a 1,000 budding biodiesel scientists around the world dedicating their careers to researching and developing the next technologies for advanced biofuels.

While at the conference, the 10 next gen biodiesel scientists met with various biodiesel mentors during a luncheon where students and professionals alike shared their ideas and visions for the future of biodiesel.

You can listen to my full interview with Evan and Lucas here: Interview with Evan & Lucas

2011 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

4 thoughts on “Hangin’ With Some Next Gen Biodiesel Scientists

  1. I was felt that the enthusiastic supporting of next gen diodiesel from the post but I have to mention the fact the land for algae cutivation and the cost for preparing oil from biomass are much much more greater than the ability we have now. I think it at least will span 2 centries. Anyway, I also agree with the opinion of preparing biofuel from both lipid and carbohydrate as we have no good idea to treat remainning part of biomass after prparing diesel and ethanol which would be more than the part of bio-buel we hope to get. You should notice: 30 million ton cabon dioxide is emmited per year and 1.8 ton CO2 can be converted and formed 1 ton biomass, so the key point is how to use the huge part of biomass other than fuel. Either landfill or feeding animal or people would be hard to be realized as their huge amount.

  2. Algae is renewable, does not affect the food channel aand consumes CO2. According to algae researchers most algae hurdles have been aaddressed. It is now engineering and scale-up. Farmers now have an opportunity to make 10x growing algae for fuel and co-products than any other terrestrial crop.
    To learn about the fast-track commercialization of the algae production industry you may want to contact the National Algae Association.

  3. Pingback: Iowa State to Run Buses on Waste Grease - Domestic Fuel

  4. Pingback: Big Green Bus Rolls Across the U.S. - Domestic Fuel