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Research Opportunities


Dr. William Chirdon is developing new applications for algae cake, the solids remaining after oil extraction in the production of biofuels. However, the economic feasibility of the process is dependent on adding value to the cake, and the production of specialty chemicals from the oil.  The development of this "glue" could have positive economic implications to several other microbial oil sources. This research could provide an economic boost to the state of Louisiana, which has the ideal climate for growing algae as well as the energy industry and infrastructure to capitalize on it.

Dr. Dilip Depan is an Assistant Professor and Director of Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Materials (BEAM) lab. He recently was awarded a grant to study the relapse or regrowth of tumor cells using a synthetic 3-D scaffold model. Another underlying objective of this grant is to enhance the competitiveness of the biomedical engineering research program at UL Lafayette to attract and secure federal funds. The main goal of the proposed work is to test the novel approach of using state-of-the-art nanoindentation (NI) technique on single cancer cells to determine the exact mechanical state of extra-cellular matrix when the tumor cells start of extravasate, significantly advancing the scientific knowledge on cancer research. He is also involved in the development of green concrete and polymer nanocomposites with tunable properties.

Energy and Environment

Dr. Buchireddy is an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering with research interests focused on thermochemical conversion of carbonaceous waste/biomass to energy and fuels. He has over 12+ year’s of experience implementing numerous projects, primarily industry supported/collaborative grants in this area. He has extensive experience with the design, installation, commissioning and operation of a 3 ton/day pilot scale gasification system and a 0.25 ton/day torrefaction reactor, which are geared to produce clean synthesis gas and biocoal, respectively. His continued research efforts include addressing technological challenges that hinder commercialization of these technologies.  Notable projects currently being implemented include 1) evaluation of biocoal production via torrefaction technology and  2) production of chemicals and fuels such as carbon black and hydrogen via pyrolysis and gasification technologies using biomass and waste carbonaceous materials such as municipal solid waste, 3) development of cost effective robust catalysts for syngas cleanup (tars and particulates).

Dr. Ling Fei works on materials design and synthesis for energy storage and conversion applications (e.g. lithium ion batteries and beyond). One of her research focuses have been exploring new electrode materials that are highly efficient, inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and light-weight to advance batteries technology. Given how ubiquitous batteries are in society and millions of new electric vehicles are coming onto the roads, battery safety is extremely critical for personal and public safety, and thus the other direction of her research is to develop nonflammable and leak-proof solid state electrolytes for safer batteries.

Dr. Mark Zappi (Chair in Bioprocessing) is the executive director of the Energy Institute of Louisiana, which is the university’s flagship center for issues pertaining to energy production and usage, and how this industrial activity can be performed within minimal adverse impacts to ecological and social systems (inclusive of energy markets). The EIL integrates petroleum resource development with alternative energy production, energy conservation, energy business development, and the study of sociological impacts of the energy industry on Louisiana regions.

The EIL working in partnership with Cleco initiated work activities at the Cleco Alternative Energy Center in Crowley, LA on five acres of land owned by UL (located in the industrial park). This $8M total investment via funds primarily provided by Cleco and the US Department of Energy features industrial quality, large demonstration systems focusing on energy and green chemical production. Example facilities include a 3-ton per day biomass-fed gasification systems, a doubled row 100 feet long solar thermal power unit, and a 0.25 ton per day continuously fed torrefaction test bed. The facility is anchored by a large research facility equipped with a new analytical laboratory, offices, meeting areas, process control area, and a large pilot test area.

Dr. Rafael Hernandez is the Associate Director of the Energy Institute of Louisiana. His research activities are focused on the transformation of wastewater treatment facilities into centers of biocrude for producing biodiesel and renewable diesel. He is interested in developing the scientific and engineering foundations to maximize the production of sustainable feedstock for producing biofuels. His research group has demonstrated that biodiesel can be produced from sewage sludge. Presently, the objective is to improve the chemical and biological processes that occur in wastewater treatment facilities to convert waste carbon and nutrients into sources of oil and develop robust chemical processes to convert the oil into fuels and building blocks for the manufacture of consumer products. More recently is has been working on the development of catalysts for the removal of sulfur from natural gas.