UCR team wins $2 million federal grant to scale up biofuel technology for powering aircraft and marine vessels 

Author: David Danelski
March 17, 2023

Charles Cia and Arun Raju
Charles Cai and Arun Raju

The sustainable fuels research team at UC Riverside has won a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to scale up an acclaimed biofuels technology that turns agricultural and forestry biomass waste into a sustainable source of aviation and marine fuels.

The patented technology is known as Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation or CELF, which was developed at UCR’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology, or CE-CERT. 

The grant, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, will fund a three-year project to construct and test a CELF pilot demonstration unit at CE-CERT. The project will be led by Charles M. Cai, associate research professor, and Arun Raju, CE-CERT associate director, with support from commercial partners Suncor Energy, BASF, and MG Fuels.

Biofuel feedstock
Wood waste is an abundant source of feedstock to create sustainable biofuels. (Photo/Getty Images)

“This is certainly a very exciting opportunity to demonstrate CELF technology’s robustness in scaling up. We are grateful for the continued DOE support as we embark on this second-phase of process development with our industry partners,” Cai said.

The plant pilot unit will be designed to operate continuously for more than 500 hours, processing at least a half ton of biomass per day. The project also will feature a custom-made solvent recovery system to simultaneously recover and re-use the solvents. 

This project was one of 17 to receive U.S. Department of Energy funding to accelerate the production of sustainable biofuels for America’s domestic transportation and manufacturing needs.