Peter Halloran

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Faculty Advisor: Jason Hicks

Annual 2020 Project: Investigation of the Fast Pyrolysis of Lignocellulosic Biomass to Increase Bio-Oil Yield

Since high school, investigating alternative energy resources has been an intriguing research field to me. During my senior year, I had the opportunity to work on a year-long independent research project of my choice. I immediately knew I wanted to investigate the optimization of algae biofuel. Specifically, I added the green algae Chlorella vulgaris to four distinct types of liquid media in an attempt to increase culture biomass. The differences in the media were the source and molarity of the nitrogen. Throughout the year, I worked on reviewing previous literature, designing, conducting, analyzing, and presenting my research at several symposiums, such as BioGENEius, Positive Impact, and Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. While I learned a tremendous amount about optimizing the growth of C. vulgaris in different nitrogen environments, I believe that more importantly I learned first-hand how long and fulfilling the process of research can be.  Last year, when I discovered the Hicks group studies alternative energy, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this research group to make a contribution to the field. Additionally, it fortuitously worked out that their research was the other side of biofuel creation, the extraction and purification for use in fuel. Over the summer, I hope to be able to investigate the influence different catalysts, temperatures, and lignocellulosic components have on overall percent mass recovery of usable fuel-like compounds. I plan to utilize fast pyrolysis, a technique that involves short reaction times and anoxygenic decomposition, to accomplish the breakdown of biomass and potentially waste plastic compounds.