WSU Tri-Cities

Bioproducts, Sciences & Engineering Laboratory

Targeted research to develop, demonstrate and
commercialize bioproducts, bioprocesses and bioenergy.

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WSU to lead FAA Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment

RICHLAND, Wash. — Fostering a new industry with jobs focused on developing alternative jet fuels and helping to meet the emerging environmental needs of the nation’s aerospace industry are primary goals for a new Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and the Environment led by Washington State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

FAA officials announced WSU’s successful bid for the center today following a months-long competitive process that drew proposals from around the country. Co-led by WSU and MIT, the center also includes an additional 14 university partners and more than 50 industry and national laboratory partners throughout the United States.

“This innovative partnership supports President Obama’s national plan to address climate change,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The Center of Excellence will tap talented universities to help us take environmentally friendly, alternative jet fuel technology to the next level. Airlines and their customers will both benefit from their work developing cleaner fuel that supports the environment and continued aviation growth.”

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell along with WSU President Elson S. Floyd and representatives from the state’s aviation industry celebrated the Center of Excellence designation at the WSU Tri-Cities campus this morning and at Sea-Tac International Airport this afternoon. The designation means up to $40 million in new funding over the next 10 years.

“This landmark investment will help the jet biofuels industry take flight,” Cantwell said. “From farms to airports, green jet fuel means jobs for Americans. This investment impacts every sector of the American economy. It secures and grows our aviation competitiveness by controlling the costs of jet fuel, protects our environment by reducing carbon emissions, and keeps our nation safer by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. And this investment will support aerospace jobs. More than 10 million Americans work in our aviation economy, and this center will provide the innovation needed to support jobs and keep America ahead in the global aviation economy.”

“Washington state is poised to lead the nation is tackling this critical scientific challenge,” Cantwell continued. “Biofuel research brings together Washington State’s leaders in aviation, innovation and agriculture. This Center will propel Washington State’s innovation economy to the forefront of the emerging biofuels industry.”

Sen. Patty Murray agreed.

“As the longtime home of our nation’s aerospace industry, Washington state has always been on the cutting edge of new technology that makes American planes better, safer, and more efficient, and I’m thrilled Washington State University will continue that proud tradition as home for the new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for alternate jet fuels and the environment,” said Sen. Murray. “Developing new alternative jet fuels is crucial for the airline industry, our military, and our environment, and the FAA made the right decision to base this important research where it belongs, in Washington State.”

Congressman Doc Hastings called the announcement from the FAA “exciting news for WSU and proof positive of the innovation right here in central Washington. It is also confirmation of the important relationship between WSU and its private sector partners to create new jobs in the Tri-Cities, while providing new opportunities for our farmers and driving forward an all-of-the-above American energy approach.”

“Washington State is already the aerospace capital of the world,” said Rep. Rick Larsen, the top Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee. “This national center of excellence will put people to work making our state the base for innovation that will reshape aviation in the 21st century. The center will combine our state’s unmatched strength in aviation engineering with our unrivaled commitment to protecting the environment.”

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers called the designation “a big victory for Eastern Washington and the aerospace industry.”

“Washington State University’s expertise and leadership make it the perfect setting for developing the future innovations in aircraft manufacturing,” she added. “The FAA’s Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment will be a positive addition to our community in Eastern Washington and I look forward to the seeing the partnerships with agencies, companies and other universities work together to achieve sustainable alternative fueling systems. I will continue to work with federal legislation to make sure our region thrives as the nation’s energy industry hub.”

Gov. Inslee said the center is yet another step in galvanizing Washington state as an international hub for the aviation industry and aviation as a stronghold of the state and national economy.

“Given our combination of vibrant agriculture and aerospace know-how, Washington is in a unique position to lead the world in the advancement of new technologies that enable a viable market for aviation biofuels,” he said. “Winning this research center was an important element of our Washington Aerospace Industry Strategy. I am thrilled that the FAA has recognized our competitive potential and the excellence of WSU in establishing this center here.”

WSU President Elson S. Floyd said “competing for and winning the Center of Excellence designation reaffirms the State of Washington and Washington State University as international leaders in aviation and the development of alternative jet fuels. We, along with our university and industry partners, stand ready to deliver the new science, advanced technology and educated workforce the industry will need to be globally competitive. I especially want to thank Sens. Cantwell and Murray, and our entire Congressional delegation for their support of our proposal for the center designation.”

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also is a partner in the center.

“The airlines are looking for ways to reduce their greenhouse gas footprint, and this center of excellence will play a big role in doing just that,” said John Holladay, manager of the Biomass Sector at PNNL.

Ralph Cavalieri, associate vice president for alternative energy at WSU, will serve as director for the Center of Excellence, which will have its headquarters at WSU Tri-Cities.

“Leveraging the knowledge, expertise and research capabilities of some of the best scientists in the country will speed our progress toward solutions for both the economic and environmental challenges the national aviation industry faces,” Cavalieri said.

John Hansman from MIT, who will serve as co-director, agreed.

“The importance of minimizing the environmental impact of aviation will continue to grow,” Hansman said. “We have assembled a broad and talented team which will explore multiple approaches to a cleaner and more efficient air transportation system.”

More information about the center and a complete roster of partners is available at www.coe.wsu.edu.

Find this news release at WSU News online at http://bit.ly/1829Dkf.


Birgitte Ahring

Birgitte Ahring, Ph.D.

Battelle Distinguished Professor and Director of the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at WSU Tri-Cities, Dr. Ahring participates in research in feedstock development, biomass conversion and fuel refining as part of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance. She is an internationally recognized microbiologist who studies the use of anaerobic bacteria — bacteria that exists in an oxygen-free environment — to produce biofuels and bioproducts, and to reduce waste. She has over 350 peer-reviewed publications and numerous patents related to renewable energy. Read more »


Hanwu Lei

Hanwu Lei, Ph.D.

Dr. Lei’s work is in the BSysE (Bioenergy and Bioproducts Engineering), research emphasis area at the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) on the WSU Tri-Cities campus. His focus is on discovering and applying novel approaches for renewable energy and value added process development of agricultural feedstocks and products. Together with his team and collaborators, he is working on a number of exciting research projects such as the design and development of processing technology, optimization of processes, reaction kinetics, and process modeling, and value added product development. Read more »


Bin Yang

Bin Yang, Ph.D.

Dr. Bin Yang works in the BSysE (Bioenergy and Bioproducts Engineering), research emphasis area at the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory on the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Dr. Yang has dedicated most of his career to the development of renewable energy technologies with particular emphasis on production of ethanol and other commodity products from cellulosic biomass. His goals are to further understand fundamental mechanism of bioprocessing technologies for cellulosic fuels, advance cutting edge technologies and facilitate the commercialization process as well as pay particular consideration of the big picture with improving our knowledge of emerging technologies to meet near and long term needs worldwide. Read more »


Xiao Zhang

Xiao Zhang, Ph.D.

Currently an assistant professor in the School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, Dr. Xiao Zhang has more than 15 years of research experience in the field of pulping, papermaking and forest biorefinery. He brings that knowledge to the feedstock development portion of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance project. Read more »