Biofuel innovation honoured

By Tara Hagan, The Observer

A presentation about making bio-oil products from dried distillers grain won a group of students first prize at a competition held at The UWO Research Park in Sarnia recently.

Matthew Klaas, Sarah Rohani, and Federico Berruti took home top honours at the Capstone 2009 Design Project Competition, which drew dozens of fourth year chemical and biochemical engineering students from the University of Western.

“It’s thrilling; we put a lot of work into it,” said Klaas.

The group spent two years on the project, which showed how grains, a byproduct of ethanol production, can be used to turn into bio-oil.

The event, now in its fourth year, invites students to present their project designs to professional engineers from industries in Sarnia-Lambton, volunteer judges, interested employers, members of the public, faculty and other students.

Cash awards for the winning groups totaled $11,000.

“We had 16 judges here from local industry,” said Don Hewson, managing director at the Research Park.

Hewson said the event is beneficial for both the students and industry leaders.

“It’s a two way-street,” he said. “It really gets the local engineers exposed to the latest techniques and values of new and emerging engineering students.

“As for the students, a lot wind up being employed here in our industries, so they get an introduction.”

Meanwhile, a second group also took home top honours for their presentation on butanol production, as a replacement for ethanol and gas, from waste starch.

James Allen, Kenneth Bunting, Joshua Cochrane and Aparna Bhattacharyya spent months on their project, which creates environmentally friendly, renewable fuel.’

“Its been very useful — getting feedback and criticism from professional engineers,” said Allen. “We’ve taken all the things we’ve learned in the classroom, and have applied it here.”

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