Two areas of research occur at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering that directly contribute to NARA.

The production of aviation fuels from woody biomass will generate a substantial amount of lignins as a byproduct. To ensure an economically viable woody biomass to aviation fuel industry, commercial uses for lignin need to be extended. Research led by Professor Simo Sarkanen is developing lignin-based plastics to be used as thermal insulating foams. The domestic U.S. market for foamed plastic is projected to reach 4 billion kg in 2013.

Associate Professor Tim Smith, helps led NARA’s Environmentally Preferred Products Team to define the market for bio-aviation fuels, evaluate the environmental impacts of bio-fuel production, and develop measures to assess buyer/user perceptions of environmentally preferred attributes for regional bio-aviation fuels and co-products.

The Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering prepares engineers, scientists, business professionals and leaders in the discovery, development and application of renewable resources and sustainable technologies to meet society’s needs while enhancing the environment in Minnesota and beyond. From biofuels, renewable energy to bio-based materials and from food to systems for improving water and air quality, BBE faculty and graduates create solutions in all stages of design, development and manufacturing that promote sustainable utilization of renewable resources and enhancement of the environment.