Hodge Research Group

Chemical Engineering & Materials Science

Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering
















CHE 201: Material and Energy Balances – Spring semester annually

This course will introduce the student to chemical engineering and the fundamental principles of chemical process analysis. The student will gain experience in the application of problem-solving techniques in a variety of process-related problems. Aspects of professional development as a chemical engineer will be presented and integrated into course material.


CHE/BE 468: Biomass Conversion Engineering – Fall semester annually

In this course, we explore chemical and biological processes for the conversion of plant cell walls, starch, and vegetable/algal lipids to heat and power, fuels, and chemicals.  The students make extensive use of engineering tools to solve problems associated with the application of these technologies and synthesize undergraduates’ problem-solving skills and fundamental chemical engineering core principles to unit operations within biomass conversion processes.  A particular emphasis is placed on the conversion chemistry including reaction stoichiometry, kinetics, yields, as well as processing requirements.  (Co-taught with Wei Liao and Chris Saffron)


Topics Covered

·        Introduction to Bioenergy

·        Plant Cell Wall Diversity, Composition, and Chemistry

·        Introduction of Biological Conversion

·        Sucrose-to-Ethanol Processes

·        Starch-to-Ethanol Processes

·         Cellulosic Biofuels Processes

·         Biodiesel and “green” diesel

·         Pyrolysis

·         Gasification

·         Anaerobic digestion

·         Algae cultivation and conversion


CHE 891: Plant Cell Wall Chemistry – on demand

This course focuses on fundamental and applied aspects of the chemistry of plant cell walls and their use for the production of value-added fuels and chemicals.  The goals of this course are to:

1.      Provide an in-depth review of the diversity, structure, physiology, and synthesis of plant cell walls

2.      Review the diversity of reaction chemistries involving chemical, biological, and catalytic conversion plant cell wall monomers and polymers for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals

3.      Present the scope of processing routes and chemical products derived from the conversion of plant cell wall macromolecules as well as present the industrial/commercial niches for these products

4.      Introduce the student to the breadth of analytical approaches for characterizing the chemical, physical, and structural features of plant cell walls as they pertain to conversion processes


Topics Covered (2012 offering)

0: Introduction to Plant Cell Walls

1: Plants: Plant Cells, Structure, and Anatomy

2: Introduction to Carbohydrate Chemistry

3: Plant Cell Wall Polysaccharides                    

4: Cellulose (Guest Lecture)

5: Plant Cell Wall Biosynthesis (Guest Lecture)

6a: Lignin and Lignification

6b: Cell Wall Extractives

7: Cell Wall Crosslinking, Models, and Assembly

8: Cell Wall Visualization (Guest Lecture)

9: Cell Wall Characterization (Student Presentations)

·         Metabolic Flux Modeling of Plant Metabolites

·         Cellulose Crystallinity Measurement

·         Thioacidolysis of Lignin

·         Surface Characterization

·         Cell Wall Polysaccharide Methods

·         Lignin Methods

10: Pretreatments, Fractionation, and Hydrolysis

11: AFEX Pretreatment Case Study (Guest Lecture)

12: Enzymatic Deconstruction of Plant Cell Walls

13: Lignin Biological Degradation/Modification

14: Animal-Associated Microbial Communities for Plant Cell Wall Degradation

15: Chemical Pulping and Bleaching Chemistry

16: Lignin Catalysis (Guest Lecture)

17: Final Project Presentations


BE 475: Study Abroad, Bioenergy Sweden/Germany – every even Summer

In this course we focus on renewable bioenergy technologies and policy in Sweden and Germany and examine how the adoption, deployment, and commercialization of these technologies is affected by the role played by: 

1.   Biomass Resources: Potential, Quality, Geography, Sustainability

2.   Private Industry: Markets, Supply Chain, Commercialization, intellectual property

3.   Fundamental and Applied Research: Technology Development

4.   Government/Policy: Policy and Market Development


and how these relationships may fit together to impact the overall energy use of a region, a country, or the planet.  Students learn through case studies and plant visits some of the fundamentals of the technologies and processes required for the conversion and/or upgrading of biomass feedstocks to fuels, heat, and power. Students have the opportunity to visit with some of the companies involved in various aspects of bioenergy including its collection, generation, and distribution and hear lectures from researchers at universities involved in developing new technologies for biomass conversion.  (Co-taught with Luke Reese, Dana Kirk, and Faculty from Luleå University of Technology)


Student Course Blogs from Previous Years

Course Blog from 2012

Course Blog from 2014



Students and faculty from MSU and Luleå University of Technology at Storforsen near Älvsbyn, Sweden. May 2014.



2100 Engineering,
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824