Ramani Narayan

A Bio-based Field Trip to Michigan State University

 

We all fill up our tanks with gas on a regular basis and we see 87, 89, and 93, but have you ever noticed that many gas stations provide E-85 fuel,which is supplemented with biomass-derived ethanol; You might have also missed that even plastic bags, paint, printer ink and seat components in our cars are now also made of bio-based chemicals. However, what are bio-based products?

Bio-based products are made of non-food, non-feed agricultural products, which harness the solar energy and photosynthesis for industrial materials, consumer products and fuel energy. The importance of bio-based products in the U.S. and the global economy is expected to increase tremendously over time.

The SearchLite is collaborating with Omni Tech International on a this exiciting  to assist companies at different stages to understand the current trends and needs of bio-based materials. Although this is not an easy task, we luckily are surrounded by many  successful researchers and entrepreneurs at universities close by. Lee Walko from Omni Tech and Scott Phillips, MJ Zhang and Hui Yang from The SearchLIte decided to meet with Professor Ramani Narayan, who is a distinguished professor in the Department of Chemical & BioChemical Engineering in Michigan State University.

Professor Narayan’s  work covers an array of topic areas including: biodegradable plastics, engineering and design of natural-synthetic polymer composite system, and biofiber reinforced thermoplastic composites, to name a few. Professor Narayan is also  a successful entrepreneur. He has developed poly(lactic acid) materials technology and conducted engineering scale-up studies for Cargill Inc..  The technology is currently being commercialized by NatureWorks LLC. Beyond these technologies, he has also developed and commercialized other technologies, such as biofoam sheets for cushion packaging and biodegradable and recycling friendly starch based nanoparticle adhesives. In addition to his entrepreneurial accomplishments, Professor Narayan is also involved with setting up a biorefinery business with Zeeland and a Michigan agribusiness company to produce bio-based and value-added products. His students, Sayli Bote, Hugh MacDowell and Preetam Giri, walked us through their most up-to-date posters and introduced the new research findings to us.

Preetam Giri is presenting his poster.

Preetam Giri is presenting his poster with Saly Bote and Hugh MacDowell. From left to right: Hui Yang, Preetam Giri, Sayli Bote, Professor Ramani Narayan, Lee Walko, Scott Phillips, Hugh MacDowell.

Professor Narayan is also excited to open a class soon and invite The SearchLite to give a few lectures. Both of us are enthusiastic about sharing our knowledge on technology transfer and entrepreneurship to the local community, such as the professors and students at Michigan State University.

Katy Luchini Colbry, the Director of Graduate Initiatives, participated in the meeting also. Katy is working with MJ to coordinate a student workshop on campus in the near future.
Professor Narayan’s lab is located in the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, which helps organizations quickly and cost-effectively test out technologies and decide which ones to commercialize on a bigger scale. After meeting with Professor Narayan, we met with Chad Pastor, who not only gave an excellent presentation about the scopes and research areas of MBI, but also a very enlightening tour of the facility. During our tour, we noticed the elegant and cost-effective design of the facility and the streamlined process.

Chad Pastor showed Scott and Lee the MBI Plant.

Chad Pastor showed Scott and Lee the MBI Plant.

 

We got to really see and feel the famous AFEX (ammonia fiber expansion) pretreatment process and its products. After the tour, we walked out of the MBI research facility feeling amazed and intrigued by the technology and development. In addition, there is a great chance of collaboration between The SearchLite, Omni Tech, and MBI in the future.

(Edited by Christy Song and MJ Zhang)

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