Fan Hu Will Earn PhD in Chemistry

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Fan Hu will graduate in May 2014 with a PhD in Chemistry, with a minor in Paper Science and Engineering.  Fan’s research has focused on better understanding the chemistry of pseudo-lignin in an effort to advance cellulose-based biofuels.

Fan has conducted his research in Dr. Art Ragauskas' group. Lignin has long been recognized as a barrier to the use of woods, agricultural crops, and wastepaper as fuel supplements because lignin resists breakdown to fuel-attractive ethanol. Methods to reduce lignin, specifically the use of dilute acid pretreatment (DAP), result in the generation of a lignin-like material known as pseudo-lignin. Like lignin, pseudo-lignin is also a barrier to the availability of ethanol necessary for satisfactory biofuel use. His thesis work was aimed at characterizing pseudo-lignin extracted from pretreated biomass polysaccharides such as cellulose and hemicellulose; proposing possible mechanisms accounting for pseudo-lignin formation; and providing the reaction conditions to reduce pseudo-lignin formation without significantly lowering pretreatment severities. In addition, Fan revealed that the formation of pseudo-lignin spherical droplets on the surface of pretreated carbohydrates can occlude biomass pore structure and block enzyme accessibility or even non-productive bind to enzymes. Therefore, his research is important to understand and to optimize pretreatment conditions to increase the breakdown of cellulose by enzymes as well as reduce the carbohydrate degradation and inhibitor formation during pretreatment process.

Fan commented, “I enjoy my time at IPST very much.  Not only I have gained world-class research knowledge and experience, but I have also have had the opportunity to make an impact on the industry.”

After receiving his degree, Fan will seek a position in research and development in the biorefining industry.  Fan began his studies at Georgia Tech in 2009.  He received a BSc in Chemistry from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.  Details on Fan’s research can be found at:


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