Bioproducts, Sciences & Engineering Laboratory

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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.”


More information about the center and a complete roster of partners is available at

Birgitte Ahring

Birgitte Ahring, Ph.D.

Battelle Distinguished Professor at 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, associate professor, 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 associate 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 »