Doctoral student engineers solutions to agricultural waste management in Louisiana

Jul 26, 2022 | Applied and Natural Sciences, Engineering and Science, General News, Research, Students

As he prepared to transition from a master’s degree to a doctoral program, Viral Sagar considered one main criterion: a program had to offer him with the opportunity to change the world by reducing waste. His search led him from Rutgers University in New Jersey to Louisiana Tech University and Dr. Joan Lynam’s Biomass Lab.

Sagar, a doctoral student in Louisiana Tech’s Engineering program concentrating on Micro and Nanotechnology Systems, brought expertise in chemical and biochemical engineering with him to Tech to aid in the Biomass Lab mission. There, he works as a lab manager, focusing on finding innovative ways to reduce agricultural waste such as sugar cane bagasse, coffee chaff, rice hulls, etc., by converting it to energy.

Currently, he is researching a process to develop solvents that extract different useful compounds from biomass, and he’s also researching methods that convert shrimp shells into products like fertilizer, artificial bone and joint replacements, adhesive healing bandages, and cement binding agents. Previously, he worked on finding energy values of mayhaw berry pulp wastes, reducing the amount of space the bio-waste will take up in landfills by creating valuable products and providing farmers with fertilizer for their crops.

Sagar says that the research could help the federal agencies and industrial partners develop sustainable energy supply while actively reducing air and water pollutants.

“At the Biomass Lab, we research creating energy from biomass waste that typically ends up in a landfill. Our goal is to develop multiple sustainable routes for reducing this problem causing pollution and to repurpose carbon. We present treatments that can remove waste from landfills while producing valuable chemicals in the form of fertilizers and energy.

“One of the keys to our success is working with multiple collaborators, including industrial partners like Drax Biomass Inc., LANXESS Corporation, the Grambling State University Department of Chemistry, Louisiana State University, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, we’re always looking for new collaborators to help us develop the best processes.”

You can learn more about Sagar’s work at the Biomass Lab website.