UNT College of Engineering explores alternative fuel sources with bioproducts as petroleum substitutes

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Searching for petroleum’s substitute with bioproductsAs society continues to strive to reduce its reliance on petroleum, we look towards substitutions not only as fuel sources, but also to redefine the petroleum products we are in contact with every day.

Biomass has long been a known energy source and more recently researchers have delved into its conversion into bioproducts. Professor Sheldon Shi of UNT College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is one of these researchers reimagining biomass applications. His Bioproducts Innovation Lab works alongside the company he started, Z&S Tech, LLC with the former developing new products and the later exploring their commercialization.

The lab is currently in the early phases of three projects, two through grants from the US Department of Energy and one from industry. The first DOE project looks to repurpose the growing number of end-of-life wind turbine blades. Researchers at the UNT department of Mechanical Engineering will be experimenting with grinding the composite blades down to particles that will then be blended with wood particles to make hybrid particleboard products.

With the continued development of electronic vehicles (EVs), the other DOE project recognizes the need for fire-proof battery enclosures with fire prediction capabilities. The Bioproducts Innovation Lab is working on developing a fire-retardant treatment technology of the natural fibers for EV battery enclosures. The predictive sensors for this application are being developed with the Co-Investigators at Columbia University. Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Lab are also contributing to this project developing a new bio-based binder for the fireproof composites.

Lastly, Wisconsin Battery Company is funding the early stages of a hemp-derived carbon battery. Each of these projects further develops Shi’s model of building a research student into a future employee by creating a well-rounded graduate who understands not only the creative and innovative side but also the business commercialization.


From UNT News - College of Engineering