Rowan Team Recognized for Alternative Fuel Research

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Efforts made by Rowan University biological sciences and chemical engineering students researching alternative fuels were rewarded recently at the 8th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Ch
Efforts made by Rowan University biological sciences and chemical engineering students researching alternative fuels were rewarded recently at the 8th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

The team, biological sciences students Michael F. Ritchie, of Mt. Laurel; Salim N. Shaikh, of Somerset; and Marcellino J. Manganelli IV, of Somers Point; chemical engineering students Alvin Addu, of Belleville; and Richard D. Pelletier, of Glassboro; chemical engineering professors Dr. Brian G. Lefebvre, of Mullica Hill, and Dr. Mariano Savelski, of Washington Township; and biological sciences professor Dr. Gregory B. Hecht, of Turnersville, took first place with their poster presentation in the area of biology. The conference included 171 total entries and was sponsored in part by Proctor and Gamble and the National Institutes of Health.

The team?s entry, ?Initial characterization of furfural resistant derivatives of Escherichia coli,? deals with using crop waste, particularly corn stalks, as a source for fuel. While fuel ethanol already is produced from corn in parts of the U.S., corn stalks provide a less expensive raw material. Ultimately, the Rowan team?s research focuses on reducing U.S. dependency on oil by producing transportation fuel from a renewable domestic source.

Turning crop waste, or biomass, into fuel is a two-part procedure. First, corn stalks are pretreated to release the sugars. Second, an organism digests the sugars to produce ethanol. Toxins formed during the pretreatment inhibit ethanol production in the second step. The team developed an enhanced strain of E. coli that is less susceptible to the toxins. This results in improved ethanol production.

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