In 1978 Mark Holtzapple earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University, and in 1981 he earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Then, he served in the US Army and worked to develop a wearable cooling system to prevent heat stress in soldiers encapsulated chemical protective clothing. In 1986, Mark became a professor of chemical engineering at Texas A&M University where he has been doing teaching, research, and service for nearly 29 years. Mark has co-authored two engineering textbooks Foundations of Engineering and Concepts in Engineering, which are widely used to teach freshman engineers throughout the world. His research interests include conversion of biomass to fuels, chemicals, food, and feed; water desalination; high-efficiency air conditioning, engines, compressors, and expanders; vertical-lift aircraft; high-thrust propulsion systems; and production of liquid natural gas (LNG). In addition to numerous teaching awards, Mark has received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, McGraw-Hill Environmental Champion Award, Sigma Xi Walston Chubb Award for Innovation, Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in Public Service, and the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development.
Dr. Holtzapple’s research group is developing the MixAlco process, which uses a mixed culture of microorganisms to convert any biodegradable biomass into carboxylic acids (e.g., acetic acid). The acids are recovered and react with hydrogen from reformed natural gas to produce mixed alcohols, which are oligomerized to hydrocarbons (gasoline and jet fuel). The carbon in the hydrocarbons is biologically sourced, so combusting it does not contribute to global warming. During the development of this process, the Holtzapple group has collaborated with Shell, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Department of Energy, Terrabon, and Earth Energy Renewables.
Liquid Natural Gas Research
Dr. Holtzapple cofounded StarRotor Corporation, a university spin-off that is developing high-efficiency gerotor compressors and expanders. These devices can be incorporated into a new process that converts natural gas to liquid natural gas (LNG) extremely efficiently (0.34 kW/kg LNG) at small scale (150,000 gal/d). This new process can be used to bring stranded gas to market or to produce regional LNG for powering trucks, trains, and ships.
Dr. Holtzapple’s research laboratory is equipped with HPLC, GC, temperature-controlled incubators, centrifuges, refrigerator/freezers, drying ovens, pH meters, biomass grinders, water baths, Rotovaps, Soxhlet extractors, and specialized pretreatment reactors.
The Holtzapple group operates a pilot-scale fermentation facility equipped with 1000-gal fermentors, vapor-compression distillation, pilot-scale centrifuge, 1000-gal storage tanks, drying oven, steam-jacketed vessels, screw press, pilot-scale pretreatment vessels, a shock treatment bunker that can hold vessels ranging from 2 to 20 L.