honor

Congratulate our alumnus , UCLA, Professor James C. Liao won the 2010 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award

date:2010-07-06

announcer:Guan Yu Tung

James C. Liao, the Chancellor's Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, his technological breakthrough — turning CO2 into alternative fuel — was acknowledged June 21 in Washington, D.C., when he was presented with the 2010 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The awards, launched 15 years ago, promote research on and development of technologies that reduce or eliminate hazardous waste in industrial production.

Dr. Liao and his colleagues have genetically engineered microorganisms to make higher alcohols from glucose or directly from carbon dioxide. His work makes renewable higher alcohols available for use as chemical building blocks or as fuel.

In particular, Liao has developed methods for the production of more efficient biofuels by genetically modifying E. coli bacteria and by modifying cyanobacterium to consume CO2 to produce the liquid fuel isobutanol — a reaction powered directly by energy from sunlight, through photosynthesis.

Put more simply, Liao said, he and his team have discovered how to "turn exhaust into fuel." "The first practical application will probably be to hook up to power plants and recycle some of the CO2 and make it into fuel," Liao said. The technology has multiple uses but "the first goal is to use it as a gasoline replacement." UCLA has licensed the technology to a private company to handle the actual production of such fuel, which is created through photosynthesis. Easel Biotechnologies, of which Liao is a co-founder, "has licensed several technologies developed at UCLA to produce green chemicals and fuels in a sustainable and cost-competitive manner."