CORVALLIS, Ore. – Hong Liu, an expert at Oregon State University in the conversion of organic wastes to energy, has received a $400,000 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.
Liu, an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, received the award through the Energy for Sustainability Program at the NSF.
In recent years, Liu has helped to develop “microbial electrochemical” systems that could convert biomass, including common sewage, into energy – either through the production of electricity or the production of hydrogen, which in turn could be used to power hydrogen fuel cells. At the same time it produces energy, such approaches have the additional benefit of cleaning the sewage.
Recent advances have been made in this promising research and the potential exists for the energy produced from the sewage to make treatment plants self-supporting in terms of energy use. Billions of dollars are spent in the United States each year on wastewater treatment. But this could also be especially valuable in developing countries, where waste treatment is often precluded by lack of available energy supplies in remote areas.
Agricultural waste could also be used and treated in a similar manner, experts say, providing a new energy source to farmers and the food processing industry.
Liu received her doctorate from the University of Hong Kong, and has been on the OSU faculty since 2005. Her areas of expertise include sustainable bioenergy production, environmental biotechnology, waste and wastewater treatment, microbial fuel cell technology and biological production of hydrogen.