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Alternative fuel effort heats up

Engineering and technology team builds machine that derives gas from wood

Contact: Gary H. Piatek

Yousef Haseli's research into alternative fuel is on fire.

The engineering and technology faculty member has taken the next step — building a gasifier — in his effort to investigate methods for producing clean, efficient and renewable energy with wood.

While he is researching the method called torrefication, which "toasts" the wood to remove its moisture and makes it a lower-cost substitute for coal, he also is working on transforming wood into a fuel called syngas.

That low-cost and environmentally friendly product can be used to power engines, gas turbines and fuel cells. It also can be turned into biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, through a process called pyrolysis.

To accomplish the transformation to syngas, he put six of his senior research assistants — led by mechanical engineering major Robert Brown of Muskegon, Michigan — in charge of building the gasifier, which heats wood to create the syngas.

They demonstrated the process recently by directing the gas through a nozzle and igniting it.

Haseli also has installed in his lab a machine that will allow him to test very small samples of wood to determine how they would perform in different situations.

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