UK researchers lead a national team, transforming solid waste into aviation fuel

In a move towards sustainable energy and waste management, the University of Kentucky has launched a pioneering research initiative that seeks to turn everyday trash into high-quality sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

Titled “Surface Enhanced Smart Preprocessing of Municipal Solid Wastes for Year-Round Supply of Conversion-Ready Feedstocks,” the study aims to address excessive landfill waste. Led by Jian Shi, associate professor in the Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE), this project has been awarded $2.12 million in federal funding from the Department of Energy (DOE).

The United States currently faces a critical challenge with over 50% of municipal solid waste (MSW) ending up in landfills, leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions and resource loss. This project seeks to address these issues head-on by developing innovative technologies to enhance the surface properties and uniformity of MSW feedstocks — facilitating their efficient conversion into biofuels and bioproducts.

“We are embarking on a journey to divert landfilled waste for bioenergy production,” Shi said. “Our goal is to transform municipal solid waste from an environmental burden into a valuable resource, paving the way for sustainable, clean energy solutions.”

The project is a collaborative effort involving a multi-institutional team, including researchers from Iowa State University, Idaho National Laboratory, Red Rock Biofuels and Wasatch Integrated Waste Management.

Katherine Johnson

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