Person

Niki Labbe

Professor and Assistant Director | Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries

Specialization: Biomass Chemistry and Multivariate Statistical Analyses

Overview

Dr. Nicole Labbé is a Professor of Biomass Chemistry in the Center for Renewable Carbon, department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries. Her research interest focuses on understanding properties of biomass –appearance, variability, and potential for conversion to various products such as fuels, chemicals, and value-added products. Her research program focuses on the fractionation and conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into value-added products. While the carbohydrates fraction of biomass has been extensively investigated as a source of carbon-based feedstock for fuel production, one should not forget that to develop an economically viable and sustainable system, the entire biomass must be utilized and converted into fuel, chemicals, and products in the same way that crude oil serves as the carbon feedstock in petrochemical refineries.

Research Focus

Novel approaches to deconstruct lignocellulosic biomass and fabricate bio-based products. High throughput techniques coupled with multivariate statistical analyses for monitoring biomass quality and performance at various scales.

Research Questions
  • The main goal of my program is to develop processes that create clean streams that can be converted into various products. Lignocellulosic feedstock such as switchgrass is composed of non-structural components (i.e. extractives and ash) and structural components (i.e. cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin). My research focuses on utilizing both fractions. We are addressing this goal by better understanding the chemical and physical properties of available lignocellulosic sources in the southeastern region of United States and by investigating the impacts of these properties on the fractionation and conversion of these feedstocks into value-added products. The fractionation step is being investigated for generating unpolluted streams and for producing a lignin fraction with minimum change that will allow us to study the structure of lignin in its most native form. We aim at developing sustainable processes by using green solvents such as ionic liquids to initiate the solubilization of the biomass structural components and then directly process the ionic liquid-biomass solution through wet spinning processes or by hydrolyzing the cellulose and hemicellulose fractions into monosugars in the same media. Enzymatic and chemical hydrolysis routes are being investigated to achieve this approach. Finally, because some lignocellulosic biomasses (softwoods) are very recalcitrant to fractionation, we are also investigating thermochemical processes that pyrolyze biomass to generate a liquid fraction known as bio-oil and a solid fraction called biochar. Both fractions have unique and tunable characteristics and are being evaluated as potential sources for fuels and/or chemicals.
Niki Labbe image
209A CRC Material Science and Technology Unit
2506 Jacob Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4570
Education and Training
  • ScD, Wood Science and Wood Products/Pulp and Paper Tech, Other, 2002
  • Masters, Wood Science and Wood Products/Pulp and Paper Tech, Other, 1999
  • BS, Chemistry, General, Other, 1998
Responsible Area(s)
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources

Niki Labbe

Professor and Assistant Director | Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries
Niki Labbe image
209A CRC Material Science and Technology Unit
2506 Jacob Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-4570
Education and Training
  • ScD, Wood Science and Wood Products/Pulp and Paper Tech, Other, 2002
  • Masters, Wood Science and Wood Products/Pulp and Paper Tech, Other, 1999
  • BS, Chemistry, General, Other, 1998
Responsible Area(s)
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources
Overview

Dr. Nicole Labbé is a Professor of Biomass Chemistry in the Center for Renewable Carbon, department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries. Her research interest focuses on understanding properties of biomass –appearance, variability, and potential for conversion to various products such as fuels, chemicals, and value-added products. Her research program focuses on the fractionation and conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into value-added products. While the carbohydrates fraction of biomass has been extensively investigated as a source of carbon-based feedstock for fuel production, one should not forget that to develop an economically viable and sustainable system, the entire biomass must be utilized and converted into fuel, chemicals, and products in the same way that crude oil serves as the carbon feedstock in petrochemical refineries.

Research Focus

Novel approaches to deconstruct lignocellulosic biomass and fabricate bio-based products. High throughput techniques coupled with multivariate statistical analyses for monitoring biomass quality and performance at various scales.

Research Questions
  • The main goal of my program is to develop processes that create clean streams that can be converted into various products. Lignocellulosic feedstock such as switchgrass is composed of non-structural components (i.e. extractives and ash) and structural components (i.e. cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin). My research focuses on utilizing both fractions. We are addressing this goal by better understanding the chemical and physical properties of available lignocellulosic sources in the southeastern region of United States and by investigating the impacts of these properties on the fractionation and conversion of these feedstocks into value-added products. The fractionation step is being investigated for generating unpolluted streams and for producing a lignin fraction with minimum change that will allow us to study the structure of lignin in its most native form. We aim at developing sustainable processes by using green solvents such as ionic liquids to initiate the solubilization of the biomass structural components and then directly process the ionic liquid-biomass solution through wet spinning processes or by hydrolyzing the cellulose and hemicellulose fractions into monosugars in the same media. Enzymatic and chemical hydrolysis routes are being investigated to achieve this approach. Finally, because some lignocellulosic biomasses (softwoods) are very recalcitrant to fractionation, we are also investigating thermochemical processes that pyrolyze biomass to generate a liquid fraction known as bio-oil and a solid fraction called biochar. Both fractions have unique and tunable characteristics and are being evaluated as potential sources for fuels and/or chemicals.