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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2010 / 01 

Biofuel researcher wins biotechnology award

January 4, 2010

Y.H. Percival Zhang
Y.H. Percival Zhang

Y.H. Percival Zhang, assistant professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech, has been selected to receive the 2010 Daniel I.C. Wang Award.

Presented by John Wiley & Sons Inc. and the journal, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, the award honors an accomplished young member of the biotechnology/bioengineering academic community for commitment to the journal and the community it serves.

The award is named in honor of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Daniel IC Wang, considered "the father of modern biotechnology." It will be presented at the 2010 American Chemical Society annual meeting, to be held in San Francisco, March 21-25.

Zhang's biofuels lab at Virginia Tech integrates chemical engineering design principles with protein biochemistry, microbiology, and modern biotechnology to solve the most crucial challenges for production of biofuels as transportation fuels. He has developed a room-temperature process for digesting biomass into several useful products, including sugars that can be converted to fuels. And he and colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated experimentally an onboard process to convert a cellulosic material into hydrogen to power fuel cell vehicles. Funded by the Air Force, he is engineering enzymes to expedite the conversion of the cellulosic substrate into the soluble product that is ultimately converted to hydrogen energy.

In addition to his most recent award and the Sunkist Young Designer Award, Zhang has received the Air Force Young Investigator Award, the DuPont Young Professor Award, the British Petroleum Young Scientists Award, the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated University. Zhang has received more than $2 million in external funding over the past four years in support of his research program, has published 47 peer-reviewed publications, four invited feature articles, and 10 book chapters, and has submitted 15 patent disclosures. He serves on the editorial boards of three journals.