Advisory Board

Jie Sheng, M.S.

The PhysOrg article A cleaner way to unlock energy: microbes for biofuel said

Cyanobacteria are capable of producing around 15,000 gallons of biofuel per acre — roughly 100 times that of plant or forest products including corn or switchgrass — and require only simple nutrients, sunlight and CO2 for growth.
But prying out the cellular ingredients needed for biofuels has so far come at a steep price, both economically and environmentally. Chemicals traditionally used in the process are extremely toxic.
Graduate researcher Jie Sheng and his colleagues at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, have been exploring new methods for performing lipid extraction by less harmful means. Under the guidance of Bruce Rittmann, director of Biodesign’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology, the team successfully tested several formulas that recover lipid with high efficiency. The group’s results appear in the current issue of Bioresource Technology.

Jie Sheng, M.S. is Graduate Research Associate, The Biodesign Institute, Environmental Biotechnology, Arizona State University. He is researching cyanobacteria for generating solar-powered, carbon-neutral, and cost-effective biodiesel.
The two best candidates for photosynthetic biofuel production — algae and cyanobacteria — may be readily refined to produce a range of green gasolines, diesels, and other biofuels. But as Jie notes, cyanobacteria offer several crucial advantages as a lipid source. “Cyanobacteria, particularly the strain we use, (known as Synechocystis) are very simple and have been fully sequenced genetically, so that we can easily modify them.” Such genetic re-tooling would allow the quantity and quality of lipid production for biofuel to be optimized.
Further, unlike algae, which must be subjected to conditions of stress to maximize their lipid output, cyanobacteria are most successfully cultured under conditions of optimal growth, so that high-density lipid production is paired with a high rate of biomass production. “When the cell is provided with happy conditions for growth, we are able to get much more lipid out,” Jie says.
Jie is working towards his Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Arizona State University with the proposed dissertation title: “Downstream Process of Biofuel Production from Synechocystis”. He earned his M.S. in Environmental Engineering at Tongji University, China in 2007 with the thesis “Mechanism of nitroaromatics degradation by ferrous redox system” and his B.S. in Environmental Engineering at Nanjing University, China in 2005 with the thesis “Effects of La3+ and Ce3+ on anaerobic granular sludge”.