Ag engineer Mosier earns Purdue Agricultural Research Award

September 16, 2015  

Mosier switch grass

Much of Nathan Mosier's research focuses on efficiently converting agricultural materials, such as this switch grass, into fuels, chemicals or other valuable products. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Nathan Mosier, a Purdue University professor of agricultural and biological engineering, will receive the 2015 Agricultural Research Award for his work in biofuels and bioprocessing technology.

The award is given each year to a faculty member in the College of Agriculture with fewer than 18 years of experience beyond a doctoral degree. It is for scientists who have demonstrated a high level of excellence in research and made significant contributions to agriculture, natural resources and quality of life for Indiana citizens.

Mosier's research primarily focuses on developing new ways to efficiently convert agricultural materials such as corn stover and fiber, switch grass and soybeans, into fuels, chemicals or other products traditionally made from petroleum and natural gas.

"Dr. Mosier is an exceptionally creative, entrepreneurial researcher whose work has made outstanding contributions to the field of renewable bioenergy," said Karen Plaut, director of agricultural research and associate dean for research and faculty affairs. "He excels at translating fundamental science into innovative technologies that make life more sustainable and at preparing new scientists and engineers to have lasting impacts on the future."

As a researcher in Purdue's Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, Mosier tackles the challenge of efficiently freeing sugars from the components of the plant cell wall - such as cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose - to produce biofuels. He creates catalysts that mimic those in the rumen of cows and guts of termites, some of the few organisms that can digest cellulose. He is also working on cellulose-derived fuels that could be drop-in replacements for gasoline and aviation fuels, more or less interchangeable with their conventional counterparts and with equal performance.

Mosier also worked with colleagues at Purdue's Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering to design and build a van-sized portable generator that can convert food waste and trash into power, a valuable technology for remote military operations and disaster areas. The machine can process a ton of waste a day to produce the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power about two or three family houses. The first prototype received a U.S. Army Commendation and was tested in Iraq.

"Dr. Mosier's work in renewable bioenergy has had important impacts across our state as well as nationally and internationally, and his engagement with industry connects the engineering of renewable resources to the business of agriculture," said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. "His path-breaking research in bioprocessing and his passion for teaching provides our students with an extraordinary learning opportunity. Dr. Mosier represents the best of the best in a land-grant faculty member."

Mosier will receive the award at 3 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 23 in Pfendler Hall's Deans Auditorium on the West Lafayette campus. He will give a seminar on "Transforming How We Sustainably Utilize Our Agricultural Resources for Food, Feed, Fiber, Fuel and Chemicals." A reception will follow the ceremony.

The award includes $10,000 to support Mosier's research program, a $1,500 honorarium and a commemorative plaque.  

Writer: Natalie van Hoose, 765-496-2050,

Sources: Karen Plaut, 765-494-8362,

Jay Akridge, 765-494-8391,

Nathan Mosier, 765-496-2044,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

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