Our research and teaching program are built around the application of applied chemistry (kinetics, thermodynamics), reactor design and transport phenomena (e.g., energy and water transport, fluid flow) in biological processes. We seek a better understanding of the complexities of these processes, with the intent of improving their performance and sustainability. The food and bioprocessing program is active in the broad application areas of space life support, biofuels, metabolic engineering and industrial food processing. These diverse areas have much in common, as they are all based upon the same engineering fundamentals.
In food process engineering, we develop quantitative models for complex processes such as frying and meat cooking under various heating modes (such as microwave and infrared) and their combinations, with a goal to improve their safety and quality. In space life support, we are designing and testing energy-efficient systems for water recovery from solid wastes, suitable for long term missions and planetary colonies. Projects in bioprocessing have involved optimization of anaerobic digestors, conversion of lignocellulosics and vegetable oils to biofuels, analysis of protein production by mammary epithelial cells, and design of micro-ecosystems on silicon chips.
The teaching program provides the knowledge base in engineering fundamentals through a course in thermodynamics and kinetics and two well-coordinated courses in transport processes, the first dealing with the basics of energy and mass transport and the second building on the first one through class projects in computational simulation of real-life biomedical transport processes. Elective courses in animal bioreactors, bioseparations, properties of biological materials and metabolic engineering round out the course offerings.
The food and bioprocessing area of BEE also blends into the department’s biomedical engineering, biomaterials, biosensors, and environmental engineering efforts.