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WSU Faculty Receive $800,000 Grant for Basic Energy Research

PULLMAN, Wash. — Three faculty at Washington State University have received an $800,000 grant from the Department of Energy to do basic research on the use of animal manure to produce low-cost energy and other value-added products.

Shulin Chen, associate professor of biological systems engineering; Ron Kincaid, professor of animal sciences; and Joe Harrison, Cooperative Extension dairy specialist; will conduct the study in collaboration with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, which has patented related processes to convert animal waste to chemical stock materials.

Most previous research around the country has focused on anaerobic digestion, a biological process using bacteria, to convert animal waste into methane gas. The methane, in turn, is burned like natural gas for heating or electrical generation.

Investigators also are interested in conversion of manure into medium-volume commodity chemicals, such as glycols or diols.

The researchers foresee potential environmental benefits from the work.

“U.S. livestock produce about 160 million tons of waste annually,” Chen said, “creating a huge environmental problem. This project focuses on ways to use the manure not as waste but as an abundant resource for producing chemicals.”

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