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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


OARDC's Yebo Li Receives University Innovator Award

November 30, 2011

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Yebo Li, a biosystems engineer with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, has received Ohio State University's 2011 Early Career Innovator of the Year Award for his work on the development and commercialization of bio-based energy and industrial products.

Now in its second year, the university's Innovator of the Year program was started to support and stimulate entrepreneurial activity among Ohio State scientists. It recognizes researchers who are working actively to promote commercialization of university intellectual property through invention disclosures filed, patents applied for and/or received, technologies licensed, or spin-off companies formed.

"We are very pleased that the excellence of Yebo Li's research and its impact on the state of Ohio was recognized by Ohio State University's Office of Research," said OARDC Director Steve Slack. "We take great pride in the contributions of our scientists and the fact that many of their contributions impact the economic future of Ohio."

An assistant professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering and a specialist with OSU Extension, Li's lab focuses on the creation of novel sources of bio-energy, biofuels and bio-products from waste.

One of those technologies -- whose patent was approved last September -- is a bio-polyol made from crude glycerin (a byproduct of biodiesel production) and crop residue. This bio-polyol can be turned into "green" polyurethane foam for use in products such as automotive seats, headrests and bumpers; sealants and thermal insulation systems for refrigerators; insulation boards; and packaging materials. Li's technology has been licensed to Poly-Green Technologies, an Ohio start-up company, for commercial production.

Li also works with Cleveland-based quasar energy group in the development of an innovative, patent-pending technology for an integrated anaerobic digestion system, or iADS, that can cost-effectively produce clean energy from both solid and liquid organic wastes through anaerobic digestion. He also collaborates with West Virginia's Touchstone Energy Laboratory in the optimization of an open-pond system for growing algae for a variety of biofuel and bio-product applications.

"I am very humbled and honored to have received this award. I get credit for the tremendous work of my students and postdoctoral researchers," Li said. "This award will encourage me and my lab to have more creative research discoveries geared toward commercialization. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the support and encouragement from administrators and colleagues at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, OARDC and my department."

Find out more about Li's work at


Mauricio Espinoza