Graduate students in the Simmons Lab take top honors in UCD Grad Slam

Ryan Dowdy, 2nd from left, receives his award

Ryan will go on to represent UC Davis in the UC-wide Grad Slam competition next month. Learn more about the Grad Slam Competition at the IGPS website

Ryan explains that he researches bioenergy production from food waste in the Christopher Simmons Lab. His project there is on microbial fuel cells and microbial desalination. This novel technology uses bacteria that feed on food and agriculture waste streams to generate electricity. Applications include sustainable wastewater-to-electricity solutions for the dairy, fruit, and vegetable processors of California. 

Brittany also shares some information on her research project: 

Tomato and grape pomace are two of the most abundant processing residues in California, but there has been little research into the potential to utilize these waste streams for biofuel production. The goal of this project is to develop a method for pre-treatment of these residues to make them easier to deconstruct in an anaerobic digestion process. Ionic liquids will be used to pre-treat each respective pomace to make the cell wall polysaccharides more accessible to bacteria in the digesters. Because these residues differ from traditional bioenergy crops in their ratio of polysaccharides, pectin content, and the presence of sugars and other metabolites unique to fruits, the pre-treatment method will need to be optimized for these differences. Methane produced during digestion can subsequently be collected, analyzed, and purified for use as fuel. Repurposing these waste streams would provide an economic incentive for food industries to implement this type of system and join the movement towards a more sustainable future.