Renewable Energy For The Philippines Through Second-Gen Biomass

Elmar Villota hopes to strengthen renewable energy capabilities in the Philippines through research into converting second-generation biomass to biofuels and other useful products.

AsianScientist (Oct. 6, 2016) – A Filipino scientist is making strides towards using renewable energy to close the energy gap in the Philippines, where as many as 15 percent of households do not have electricity.

With a population of more than 100 million scattered across more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines faces the challenge of extending power to everyone, according to Mr. Elmar Villota, who is a doctoral student in biological systems engineering from Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities in the US.

“A simple light bulb could make a world of difference,” Villota said. “Without a sustainable source of electricity, students can’t have light or read comfortably at night. Imagine how much knowledge they would miss.”

Villota noted that in the Philippines, historically, citizens are end users in terms of technology, purchasing it rather than making or innovating it. Renewable energy, he added, could help address the nation’s sustainable energy concerns and stimulate technological growth.

As part of the Engineering and Research Development for Technology scholarship program, Villota is studying how to convert second-generation biomass, such as agricultural waste or woody crops, to biofuels and other useful products, such as bio-based polymers and chemicals.

Working under WSU Associate Professor Yang Bin, Villota mainly is focused on enzymatic hydrolysis, a process that uses bacteria and fungi to break down plant cell walls to sugar, which is turned into fuel.

Villota has written a book chapter on the subject in cooperation with Yang and Dr. Dai Ziyu, a senior scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the US. He is also working with Dr. Shen Rongchun, a visiting scholar from China, on techno-economic assessment regarding methods for converting lignin—structural polymers in plants—into useful, high-value products like bioplastics.

Villota said he is hopeful that thousands of fellow Filipinos will benefit from his work, which could lead to basic electrification and light and even broader impacts.

“Through this experience, I hope to extend students’ learning capabilities, and in turn, extend the potential for them to make a difference in the world,” he said.


Source: Washington State University.
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