Before he came to the U.S., Dr. Yebo Li was a very successful scientist and professor in China. He had served as Principal Director for three grants funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), and four grants funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Education in China.
In March 1999, a Chinese national panel selected Dr. Li to lead the 21st century research in agricultural products processing at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). In 2000, Dr. Li came to the University of Minnesota to work on a joint research project attempting to produce ethanol from corn stover. To continue this research, he extended his stay in the United States. In 2002, CAAS offered Dr. Li a distinguished professor position with generous start-up funding, a very attractive salary, and a relocation package back to China. But Dr. Li accepted a position at North Carolina A&T State University, where he continued his research in bioproducts and bioenergy. He joined The Ohio State University (OSU) Department of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering (FABE) in 2007.
Dr. Li has over 15 years of professional experience in bioprocessing engineering, biofuels and biobased products, and value-added processing of agricultural products. He has published more than 50 peer reviewed articles and proceedings papers on fermentation, membrane separation, biomass pretreatment, dewatering, and other key processes of processing engineering. He has also been awarded with three patents and nine superior paper awards. He currently serves as principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on seven grants funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other agencies with a total funding that exceeds $1.3 million.
Dr. Li’s major fields of specialization are biomass feedstock preprocessing, and the development of biorefinery processes for the production of fuels, chemicals, and polymers from lignocellulosic biomass. Well-known and respected for his expertise, some of Dr. Li's work also pertains to food and bioprocess engineering, particularly value-added products from agro-based systems.
Dr. Li currently supervises three graduate students and two postdoctoral researchers working on the development of innovative processes for producing biobased products and biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass. He is developing microbial methods for concurrent wet storage and pretreatment of corn stover for ethanol production, which is partially funded by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) Seed Grant Program and North Central Sun Grant Program. Dr. Li also collaborates with North Carolina A&T State University, Purdue University, and Alabama A&M University in the development of an integrated process for producing ethanol and biobased products from lignocellulosic biomass (funded by USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service [CSRESS]). This work focuses on developing cost-effective biomass pretreatment methods and pervaporation processes for simultaneous fermentation and separation of ethanol. Another project, funded by the Ohio Soybean Council, seeks to develop a liquefaction process for producing polyurethane foams from soybean processing residues. Dr. Li is also developing a solid-state anaerobic digestion process to convert municipal and agricultural solid waste to methane; this project is partially funded by the OARDC Seed Grant Program.
Dr. Li also has a 15 percent of extension appointment on bioenergy and biobased products. He successfully organized and gave two presentations at a Renewable Energy Workshop in November of 2008; approximately 150 persons attended. Dr. Li hopes that the workshop will become an annual event, being held at different locations around Ohio. Currently, he is setting up a website for the renewable energy extension program.
The Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC) is a new research initiative that integrates academia and industry toward the development of renewable specialty chemicals, polymers/plastics and advanced materials. The Center was funded in 2005 by the Ohio Department of Development through an $11.5 million Wright Center of Innovation (Third Frontier) award, leveraged with matching funds from external partners. OBIC was created to support the development of novel germplasms; connect related agricultural and chemical industry components; accelerate commercialization; increase jobs and economic growth/stability; catalyze strategic investments in renewable feedstocks and value-added chemicals and polymers; work with industry to create value chains for bioproducts; leverage platform building blocks/chemicals to create a bioproducts innovation pipeline; and create platform technologies.