Travis LeDoux » Fall 2016 URS Student Profiles – NMSU

Travis LeDoux

Major: Chemical and Materials Engineering Mentor: Dr. Catherine Brewer,Chemical & Materials Engineering Department at New Mexico State University
Home Phone: URS Fall 2016
Photo of Travis LeDoux

Biographical Info

Personal Statement

Currently studying Engineering with the intent to end up in renewable energy at some point. As I began my College Career I had toured the chemical engineering department with intent to apply, but as the nature of things, I was swayed to do civil engineering. You may ask why? Well, you see, I come from a family of civil engineers, and naturally they pushed me in the direction that they knew worked for them. I had intended to pursue chemical engineering as I have a love for math and chemistry. Having always been fascinated with chemistry, especially as I grew up as a young boy, and ultimately let me wanting to excel in advanced classes growing up, so as to later prepare myself for what I would encounter when I got to College.

I am currently studying to obtain a BS of Chemical and Material Engineering with an anticipated graduation date of May 2018. Eventually pursuing a MS in Chemical Engineering, or Computer Science. I have been fortunate enough to have had opportunities to take part in several programs that not only allow me to travel abroad while still studying Engineering without disrupting my time line for graduation, but to also obtain valuable research opportunities. Highly recommend broadening one’s own scope by traveling abroad. There is no comparison for the experience it leaves you with.

Having had an internship with Los Alamos National Labs, New Mexico AMP has lent its self to provide this wonderful research opportunity. In which, I have gained insight while studying Hydrothermal Depolymerization of Algae in Batch and Continuous Flow Reactor Designs. Being able to work in a lab has allowed me to understand myself better and because of such, I have a much more definitive idea that lab work and research is in fact what I would like to do later in my career.



Optimized Hydrothermal Liquefaction for High- and Low-Lipid Algae

Third-generation biofuels produced from hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of algae have been developing rapidly. Advantages of algae-derived oils via hydrothermal liquefaction are attributed to high algae growth rates, strong CO2-mitigation potential, and avoidance of feedstock drying requirements. For HTL, subcritical water (270-370°C and 60-210bar) depolymerizes lipids, proteins and carbohydrates in algae, leading to high yield of bio-crude oil, which can be upgraded to transportation fuels. For this study, we delineate biocrude composition as influenced by operating condition change for temperatures of 310-350°C, residence time of 5-60min, and solid algae content of 5-10wt.%) for both the high-lipid microalgae Nannochloropsis salina and the low-lipid microalgae Galdieria sulphuraria. The bio-crudes are characterized by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectroscopy (FT-ICR MS), fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis by gas chromatography mass spectroscopy (GC/MS), oxy-combustion calorimetry, and elemental analysis (CHNS). These results are used to optimize species-specific operating conditions for a 1.8 L batch reactor and to predict optimized conditions for new algae strains based on their feedstock compositions and knowledge of compound degradation pathways. Additionally, bio-crude oil characterization results will be used to select initial conditions for a pilot-scale continuous flow HTL reactor, designed to produce char-free biocrude oil from low-solid-content feedstock without centrifugation.