Date of Award

Fall 2017

Project Type


Program or Major

Chemical Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Palligarnai T. Vasudevan

Second Advisor

Subhash C. Minocha

Third Advisor

Dale P. Barkey


Diminishing petroleum reserves and increasing environmental awareness has led to an urgent need to develop alternative fuels, such as biodiesel. Enzymatic trans/-esterification of waste cooking oils with a lipase catalyst is a promising environmentally-friendly process to produce biodiesel, compared to the current industrial chemical process. Despite several advantages, there are a few technical and economical obstacles that limit this process, such as insufficient availability of large quantities of inexpensive lipase suitable for catalysis, and bad performance at low temperatures due to biodiesel’s low cetane number. These limitations are addressed in this dissertation using genetic engineering of plants to produce the enzyme lipase, and hydrodeoxygenation of biodiesel to produce green diesel. The specific objectives include:

• Cloning and over-expressing recombinant lipase from T. lanuginosus and C. antarctica in tobacco and A. thaliana in order to develop an inexpensive biocatalyst.

• Developing and characterizing supported molybdenum and cobalt promoted catalysts in the hydrodeoxygenation reaction of biodiesel for the production of green diesel to promote oils’ performance.

The major findings are: (i) Lipase genes can be constitutively expressed in tobacco and A. thaliana without adversely affecting plant growth. Plants offer a promising platform for producing recombinant enzymes for biodiesel production; (ii) Optimization of hydrodeoxygenation process parameters such as reduction temperature, hydrogen gas flow rate, and reaction temperature can significantly increase green diesel yield; (iii) Cobalt added as a promoter in the supported molybdenum catalysts can significantly increase the catalytic activity, selectivity, and stability; and (iv) The choice of support in the heterogeneous molybdenum catalysts can also have a considerable effect on the green diesel yield.