Tenn. professor 'Philip' Ye receives award for glycerin research

By The American Cleaning Institute | May 07, 2014

Research aimed at finding ways to overcome roadblocks to industrial production of value-added chemicals from glycerin is being honored with the 2014 Glycerine Innovation Award.

The yearly honor is sponsored by the American Cleaning Institute and the National Biodiesel Board and is presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Oil Chemists’ Society.

The 2014 honoree is Xiaofei “Philip” Ye, associate professor at the University of Tennessee's Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science. The ACI/NBB Glycerine Innovation Award recognizes outstanding achievement for research into new applications for glycerin, with particular emphasis on commercial viability.

Ye undertook his research in response to the rapid growth of the biodiesel industry worldwide resulting in the production of large amounts of glycerin, creating an urgent need to quickly and effectively convert crude glycerin into value-added chemical products.

Three major commodity chemicals that can be derived from glycerin—acrylic acid, lactic acid, and propylene glycol—have attracted extensive research worldwide in recent years. These chemicals serve as building blocks for plastics and polymers that are environmentally friendly, with wide applications in superabsorbent polymers, textile treating agents, adhesives, thermosetting resin and synthetic fibers.

However, there are still “bottleneck problems” hindering the industrial production of these chemicals from glycerin.

“These bottleneck problems are the use of crude glycerin instead of purified glycerin as feedstock, the catalyst deactivation in the conversion of glycerin, and energy and hydrogen efficiency in the conversion of glycerin,” said Ye. “My research focuses on innovative technology development to overcome these bottleneck problems. In addition, I also conducted engineering modeling and economic analysis that justify and promote the use of innovative technologies for the commercial production of value-added chemicals from glycerin.”

Ye’s recent research in this area has been published in such journals as the Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society, ChemSusChem, Biofuels, Fuel Processing Technology, and Catalysis Letters.

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