USC Researchers Are Creating the Cheaper, Cleaner Fuels of the Future


Trojan scientists are raiding deep fryers, developing alternative crops and turning to kelp in their quest to create renewable biofuels.

If you’ve ever deep-fried a fish or crisped up a batch of homemade potato chips, you’ve probably eyed the leftover vegetable oil as nothing more than a messy inconvenience.

Travis Williams, a chemistry professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, sees something else: an ingredient for cheaper, cleaner fuels that can transform the energy sector.

Williams and postdoctoral scholar Zhiyao Lu have been reinventing the way biodiesel is made from vegetable oil. The process they developed at USC’s Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute not only recycles cooking oil otherwise destined for the landfill. It also makes the biodiesel manufacturing process profitable, solving a problem that has plagued the industry for decades.

Williams is one of several USC researchers harnessing the energy stored in plants to create next-generation transportation fuels. Whether they’re developing alternative crops or taking to the ocean to grow kelp, Trojan scientists are at the forefront of research into biofuels — a key component of a sustainable future.

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