Ohio State Scientist Recognized for Bioproduct, Bioenergy Breakthroughs

Yebo Li

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University scientist Yebo Li, who works to develop new sustainable bioproduct and bioenergy sources, yesterday (4/25) received the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) Junior Faculty Research Award.

The award honors outstanding achievements by an OARDC faculty member at the rank of assistant or associate professor.

OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Li, who is an associate professor in CFAES’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, leads OARDC’s Wooster-based Bioproducts and Bioenergy Research Laboratory, which focuses on biomass, biofuels, biopolymers, anaerobic digestion and algae-based biofuels.

Video (1:24): Yebo Li talks about his research to develop new biofuels and bioproducts -- work that's creating new jobs and improving Ohio's economy and environment.

“The results of his work have led to industries seeking him out as a collaborator and to license the discoveries and technologies coming out of his lab,” one of Li’s nominators wrote.

Li has teamed, for instance, with Cleveland-based quasar energy group to develop patent-pending technology for an integrated anaerobic digestion system, called iADs. The new system cost-effectively produces clean energy from solid and liquid organic wastes.

By combining crop residue and crude glycerin, which is a biodiesel byproduct, he has developed a new bio-polyol material for making bio-based polyurethane foam. The foam can be used to make car seats, packaging, refrigerator insulation and more. An Ohio startup called Bio100 Technologies has licensed the technology for commercial production.

He also is working with West Virginia-based Touchstone Research Laboratory to optimize an open-pond system for growing algae for biofuels and bioproducts. A pilot-scale version of the system is now being tested on a farm near Wooster.

Since joining OARDC in 2007, he has received nearly $12 million in grant funding as principal investigator or co-principal investigator; has published 36 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, 47 papers in proceedings and scholarly presentations, and seven fact sheets and technical bulletins; and has advised or is advising eight Ph.D. students and eight master’s degree students.

His previous honors include the 2012 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ Rain Bird Engineering Concept of the Year Award, Ohio State’s 2011 Early Career Innovator of the Year Award, and the 2010 Lumley Research Award from Ohio State’s College of Engineering.

OARDC’s Junior Faculty Research Award carries with it a plaque, $1,000 for Li and $3,000 added to the operating expenses budget of his OARDC research program. OARDC Director Steve Slack presented the award during the center’s April 25 annual research conference in Columbus.

In addition to Slack, the conference’s speakers included Bruce McPheron, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES; OARDC Associate Director David Benfield; Henry Thompson, director of Colorado State University’s Cancer Prevention Laboratory; Steve Schwartz, Carl E. Haas Endowed Chair in Food Industries and director of CFAES’s Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship (CAFFRE); and physician-scientist Dr. Steve Clinton, associate director of CAFFRE and molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention program leader at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The conference’s theme was “How Food Impacts Human Health.”

OARDC is the largest university agricultural bioscience research center in the U.S. The center works not just on food and farming but also, for instance, on biofuels, bioproducts, health, nutrition, sustainability and the environment.

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Kurt Knebusch


Steve Slack, OARDC Director