UIUC Algae Biofuels

Yan Zhou working hard in the lab.

Members - Yan Zhou
Background - Research - Awards

It was a project that aimed to develop effective algae bloom control strategies in reclaimed water that sparkled Yan's passion for algae. Assisting graduate student on this project as a junior student, Yan was deeply attracted by various fascinating ideas of utilizing algae as a bioenergy feedstock. When doing her undergraduate thesis which applied combined ozonation and biological treatment to petroleum contaminated soil, Yan decided to work on researches developing novel technologies to handle Energy VS Environment issue in the future. With this pursuit, after getting her bachelor's degree in Environmental Engineering from Tsinghua University, she joined Dr. Lance Schideman's research group in fall 2008, working on algae cultivation for the dual purpose of wastewater purification and algal bioenergy production.


High density Spirulina in flasks(TOP). Spirulina, an algae like bacteria, grow quickly. It has already been converted successfully into biocrude oil by the Bioenvironmental group in the Department of Agricultural and Biological engineering of UIUC. Spirulina under the microscope (BOTTOM).

Yan's current research focuses on the following areas:

  • High density algae cultivation on waste streams
  • Novel energy recovery and purification scheme of agricultural and municipal wastewater
  • Treatment scheme of wastewater from Hydrothermal Conversion Process (HTP) convert pig manure into biocrude oil
Previous work has included:
  • Study of the Growth Characteristics of Microcystis Aeruginosa in Reclaimed Water and Control Strategies
  • Ozonation-Biological Remediation of Crude Oil Contaminated Soils


Algae alternative fuel research utilizing Agricultural waste (TOP). From left to right: pig slurry, algae growing on pig slurry, centrifuged algal biomass, algal biocrude oil using pyrolysis. Weigh boats of algae samples being evaluated as a biomass feedstock to create a bio-oil that can used as an alternative fuel (BOTTOM). The top one: mixed species growing on pyrolysis post water (seed was collected from local wastewater treatment plant). The bottom: Chlorella sp.(left), Spirulina platensis(right). .


Yan's past awards include:
  • The First Class Social Work Scholarship of Tsinghua University, 2007
  • The First Class Academic Scholarship of Tsinghua University, 2006
  • The First Class Prize of the National High School Biology Olympiad, 2003