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USTAR Professor Receives Fulbright Award to Conduct Research in Finland

Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015

USU USTAR professor Dr. Foster Agblevor in his lab holding a small piece of bio-based plastic

Dr. Foster Agblevor holds a small piece of bio-based plastic at his Thermochemical Lab. His research includes developing low-cost catalysts for converting biomass into plastics, foam and other value-added products.

plant material for biomass conversoin

Agblevor, USTAR-endowed professor of biological engineering, has been awarded a J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Award to conduct bioenergy research in Finland.

A Utah State University professor, known globally for his expertise in converting biomass into fuels, has received a J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Award.

Foster Agblevor, Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR)-endowed professor of biological engineering, will travel to Finland in summer 2015 to work with researchers at one of Europe’s largest research organizations -- the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland -- where he plans to advance his work in bioenergy.

Agblevor has caught national attention in recent years after developing a method to convert poultry litter into biofuel. Now he’s creating new technologies that turn plant material into bio-based plastics.

In this latest venture he is teaming up with experts in Egypt to simultaneously combat a growing air pollution problem. At many of Egypt’s rice, cotton and banana farms, plant residues, including leaves and stems are simply burned in the fields -- a practice that impacts the nation’s public health and threatens to deteriorate its ancient monuments.

Agblevor’s concept is to create a new low-cost catalyst that breaks the plant material down into oils or sugars that can be used to make plastic, foam, insulation, adhesives and other products. The result would be cleaner air and reduced dependency on petroleum products for everyday goods.

These breakthroughs and other research initiatives at Agblevor’s Thermochemical Lab at the USTAR Bioinnovations Center are providing new insight into sustainability and complex global energy needs.

This was the basis for Agblevor’s proposal to the Fulbright organization.

“What I proposed was to develop new low-cost catalysts for biomass conversion,” he explained. “And I thought that if I went to Finland, it would complement some of my activities because they have similar research facilities there. When we combine our effort we can come up with a catalyst that is more effective.”

As a Fulbright grantee, Agblevor joins the ranks of other distinguished winners who have gone on to become heads of state, ambassadors and Nobel Prize recipients. Since its beginnings more than 60 years ago, approximately 300,000 Fulbrighters have participated in this unique international program.

“I consider this a big honor to be considered as a Fulbright Fellow,” he said. “I am very pleased to have been selected.”

Agblevor will return to the United States in December 2015 to continue his work in the biological engineering department at USU where he’s currently mentoring several doctoral candidates, hosting visiting scholars and working with other students in the College of Engineering.

Related links:

USU Department of Biological Engineering

USU College of Engineering

Contact: Matt Jensen, College of Engineering, 435-797-8170,

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