Goodbye Bioethanol! Time For Affordable Biogasoline and Biodiesel!

Cun Wen | Elizabeth Barrow

University of South Carolina

This project was funded on:
11 July 2014
While bioethanol continues to possibly replace a significant portion of gasoline and diesel as transportation fuel, the cost of bioethanol is still substantially higher than that of petroleum-based fuels. The technology developed in our laboratory will reduce the cost of non-ethanol biofuels by increasing the efficiency of biofuel production. With your support, this novel technology can be optimized and scaled up for large scale production.

What is the context of this research?

In the United States, currently about 7% of gasoline and diesel is being replaced with biofuels, mainly bio-ethanol. The usage of bioethanol is supposed to be leading the US towards a more secure and stable economy by reducing our heavy dependency on crude oil imports. However, due to the fact that the bioethanol production process is still in its infancy, the cost of bioethanol is higher than gasoline and diesel. Furthermore, bio-ethanol has lower energy content than gasoline, which leads to the actual cost of bioethanol being even higher considering the energy density per gallon. At the end of the day, when we try to make our economy more sustainable by domestically producing transportation fuels from sustainable sources, more money instead of less is spent on fuels.

What is the significance of this project?

We are developing a technology at University of South Carolina to efficiently produce high energy content biogasoline/biodiesel (long-chain hydrocarbons instead of bio-ethanol). By engineering nanomaterials at the core of the biomass-to-biofuel conversion process, a novel multifunctional catalyst technology has been developed in our lab. This multifunctional catalyst allows several sequential reactions to take place in one single reactor. This not only promotes the production rate of the biofuel, but also eliminates energy-intensive separation and distillation processes that are required in conventional multi-step biofuel production. Along with the high efficiency of our biofuel production process, the yield of hydrocarbon biofuels is above >90%, based on carbon input and output.

What are the goals of the project?

The catalyst and optimal operating conditions will be further optimized for large scale industrial chemical plants. The main focus of the research will be increasing the lifetime of the catalyst. There are many variables that must be explored, including the chemical and physical structures of the catalyst, the reaction conditions, and the configuration of the reactor. While these steps are of utmost importance for industrial catalyst development, they are less attractive for academic research funding due to the time- and money-consuming stability tests. With your help, we can continue working on this technology to bring it forward to practical application. We believe this technology can greatly contribute to the needed change in biofuel production.


Budget Overview

The $7,000 funds will be used for the following purposes:

  1. Experimental materials and equipment which include a) chemicals and gases required for the tests, b) necessary parts and consumables for the reaction system, and c) a tube furnace for the reactor ($5,000)
  2. Technical fees for characterizing catalysts and products ($1,000)
  3. Travel expenses for disseminating the results in regional or national conferences to attract collaborations and investments ($1,000)

We are very grateful that the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of South Carolina is kindly providing dollar-for-dollar matched funding from to boost our project. As a result, we are seeking to raise $3,500 of the necessary $7,000. In the end, every dollar you contribute is really worth two!

Meet the Researcher


Cun's research background is in energy catalysis with a focus on understanding reaction mechanisms and catalyst synthesis. After his Ph. D study at the East China University of Science and Technology, Cun joined the University of Notre Dame du lac and the University of South Carolina to pursue his research in energy catalysis.

During his research at USC, Cun worked with Dr. Jochen Lauterbach and Dr. Jason Hattrick-Simpers to develop novel biofuel production technology, which aligns with the goal of the SAGE center (Strategic Approaches to the Generation of Electricity) at USC. The SAGE center is directed by Dr. Lauterbach, and is steered toward "providing sustainable solutions to the industrial based research problems".

Every backer who pledges any amount has access to our lab notes we will post through & can follow our research through the site. Additionally, to acknowledge your support of research to improve people's daily life, we have few rewards for you:
Top 20 donors - a souvenir USB memory stick from the SAGE center!
Top 10 donors - a souvenir USB memory stick from the SAGE center, name or company at your choice to be mentioned in our academic conference presentations.
Top 2 donors - a souvenir USB memory stick from the SAGE center, name or company at your choice to be mentioned in our academic conference presentation, acknowledgement of name or company at your choice in our next academic paper.

Project Backers

jtavalonKateMingletongzhangtake it easyBillRzhiyongwang5srebmikmrrobotrbergenalocalkineguyThomsonCynthiaMinglewirthmaddalightssmercheyiFrancisGadalaMariaShuguoHiSpinStateAndrew WongLeighHuntAlbertCloeteSBarrowOscar JasklowskiDenny LuanComfortCudbhavbXiaoLisungtakkim37StockcookingjeulaudcMarkUline