His new research, in collaboration with Mike Himmel at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Jonathan Mielenz at ORNL, Zhang will develop a new nano-scale tool to determine cellulose accessibility to the digesting enzymes and measure the fraction and concentration of the enzymes on the cellulose surface. The research will go on to quantitatively determine substrate characteristics and their impacts on the activities of the enzymes. "It will foster research on improvements in cellulase activity and biomass pretreatment to make bioethanol processes more efficient and economical," Zhang said.
Zhang received his undergraduate degree and his master of science degree in biochemical engineering at the East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai, and his Ph.D. in biochemical and chemical engineering from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, where he was also a post-doctoral associate and a research scientist. He joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 2005. His research interests are bioenergy and biobased products, including production of ethanol and other chemicals, biocatalysis and protein engineering, environmental biotechnology, and bionanotechnology. He has established a basic molecular biology and bioprocess laboratory at Virginia Tech. He will teach thermodynamics in Fall 2006.
Learn more about Zhang's work at filebox.vt.edu/users/ypzhang/research.htm.