A technician observes bags of biofuel

A biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development manager could...


Explore different ways of growing algae to maximize the amount of biodiesel it will yield. A technician transfers liquid from a pipette to a beaker Turn successful lab experiments into manufacturing processes for retailing biodiesel on a large scale. A fuel pump labeled biodiesel
Lead a research team developing more efficient enzymes to produce biofuels more cheaply. A technician examines growth on a petri dish Test different crops to determine which are best for producing biofuels in different climates. Rows of corn stalks in a field
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Key Facts & Information

Overview Soybeans, corn, grass, algae, vegetable oil: What do these things have in common? The answer is that they can be used to create biofuels, which are derived from plants or plant material. These sources are called biomass. The procedure for converting plants or vegetable oil into a biofuel is a chemical reaction that has many steps. The biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development manager is a professional who develops ways to convert the raw material into fuel and improve the types, growth, and yields of biomass sources. This green job has the potential to greatly influence how we meet our future energy needs.
Key Requirements Analytical and logical curiosity, detail-oriented work habits, concern for the environment, good written and verbal skills
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, calculus; if available, computer science
Median Salary
Biofuel or Biodiesel Technology & Product Development Manager
  $134,730
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
  $49,630
Min Wage
  $15,080
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Little or No Change (-2% to 2%) In Demand!
Interview
  • Dr. Gerhard Knothe is a research chemist working in the area of biodiesel fuel. Here, he discusses the aims, methods, and findings of his biodiesel projects.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

It is common for biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers to spend a period of time working as a postdoctoral (after receiving a PhD) student in the laboratory of a senior researcher, especially for those who want to conduct research or teach at the university level.

Education and Training

The minimum degree required for a position as a biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development manager is a bachelor's degree in chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, chemical engineering, or related field. With a bachelor's degree, employers will require that candidates have five to ten years of extensive experience in the biofuels or biodiesels area. With a master's degree, candidates are expected to have two to five years of experience. In many cases, entry-level positions are open to candidates with PhDs with minimal work experience. Candidates with PhDs can teach and perform cutting-edge research at the university level.

Other Qualifications

Biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers should be able to work independently or as part of a team and be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Those in private industry, especially those who aspire to management or administrative positions, should possess strong business and communication skills and be familiar with regulatory issues and marketing and management techniques.

Nature of the Work

Much of the energy that we use today comes from fossil fuels like coal and oil. But because fossil fuels come from the Earth, they are a limited resource. Scientists are looking at alternative sources of fuel, like the sun, wind, and water, to someday replace fossil fuels as our primary source of energy. These alternative sources of energy are renewable. This means that they are naturally replenished. Biofuel is an alternative source of renewable energy. Biofuels, like ethanol, biodiesel, and vegetable oil, are derived from plants and plant materials. Algae, switchgrass, and used vegetable oil from fast-food restaurants are examples of what can be used to create biofuel. Sources like these are called feedstocks.

This video from Washington State University highlights innovators Drs. Bill Pan and Su Ha and discusses biofuel production.

Biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers are responsible for all aspects of converting raw plants and plant material into biofuel, including finding methods for growing feedstocks. They discover new ways to efficiently produce and use that energy. It takes energy to fertilize, cultivate, and process plants into biofuel. Biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers strive to make sure that the energy from using biofuels is greater than the energy used to create it. An early feedstock for ethanol biofuel was corn. However, the amount of energy required to create ethanol from corn is too great. Thus, biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers work on creating ethanol from lignocellulosic feedstock, like the byproducts from paper mills as well as stems and stalks from crops. These managers must understand the principles of microbial conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels. They must be familiar with genetic engineering of microorganisms and hydrocarbon synthesis pathways.

Another feedstock for biofuel (biodiesel) is algae. Two advantages of algae are that it can be grown in contaminated water or land that is not suitable for food production and that it generates 15 times more oil per acre than other kinds of feedstock. Some biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers work on creating new strains of algae, characterizing them using different kinds of analytical tools and comparing them to natural strains. They investigate different methods of growing algae, in open ponds or in photobioreactors, and evaluate the various strains under different growth conditions.

Because wide-scale use of biofuels relies on making them plentiful, biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers work on converting lab processes into a commercial, low-cost, and high-performance process. They troubleshoot process abnormalities and investigate the root cause of failures.

Work Environment

Biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers work for universities, government, and oil and gas companies. Biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers work indoors, and they must perform their jobs accurately and with a lot of attention to detail in order to complete every task. Usually, they work regular hours in offices or laboratories and are not exposed to unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Biofuel or biodiesel technology and product development managers who work with dangerous organisms or toxic substances in the laboratory must follow strict safety procedures to avoid contamination. Some biochemists depend on grant money to support their research. They may be under pressure to meet deadlines and conform to rigid grant-writing specifications when preparing proposals to seek new or extended funding.

On the Job

  • Conduct research to breed or develop energy crops with improved biomass yield, environmental adaptability, pest resistance, production efficiency, bioprocessing characteristics, or reduced environmental impacts.
  • Oversee biodiesel/biofuels prototyping or development projects.
  • Propose new biofuels products, processes, technologies or applications based on findings from applied biofuels or biomass research projects.
  • Analyze data from biofuels studies, such as fluid dynamics, water treatments, or solvent extraction and recovery processes.
  • Conduct experiments on biomass or pretreatment technologies.
  • Conduct experiments to test new or alternate feedstock fermentation processes.
  • Design chemical conversion processes, such as etherification, esterification, interesterification, transesterification, distillation, hydrogenation, oxidation or reduction of fats and oils, and vegetable oil refining.
  • Design or conduct applied biodiesel or biofuels research projects on topics such as transport, thermodynamics, mixing, filtration, distillation, fermentation, extraction, and separation.
  • Design or execute solvent or product recovery experiments in laboratory or field settings.
  • Develop methods to estimate the efficiency of biomass pretreatments.
  • Develop methods to recover ethanol or other fuels from complex bioreactor liquid and gas streams.
  • Develop separation processes to recover biofuels.
  • Perform protein functional analysis and engineering for processing of feedstock and creation of biofuels.
  • Prepare biofuels research and development reports for senior management or technical professionals.
  • Prepare, or oversee the preparation of, experimental plans for biofuels research or development.
  • Provide technical or scientific guidance to technical staff in the conduct of biofuels research or development.
  • Develop carbohydrates arrays and associated methods for screening enzymes involved in biomass conversion.
  • Develop computational tools or approaches to improve biofuels research and development activities.
  • Develop lab scale models of industrial scale processes, such as fermentation.

Companies That Hire Biofuel or Biodiesel Technology & Product Development Managers

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

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Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever dreamed of a world where you could take the scraps from last night's dinner and toss them into your car's fuel tank and make gas? Well, we're not quite in "Back to the Future" yet, but in this energy science fair project, you'll discover that food scraps, dead plants, sawdust, and other decaying organic matter, called biomass are a rich source of energy. You can get energy out of biomass by burning it, turning it into a liquid, or by turning it into a gas called biogas. You've… Read more
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Are biofuels the wave of the future? People often talk about these plant-derived fuels as a way to someday cut down on our dependency on non-renewable carbon-based fuels, like gasoline. Ethanol (a type of alcohol) is a common biofuel used today. In the United States, ethanol is a common biofuel additive to normal gasoline. In fact, some states mandate that when you fill up your gas tank, 10 percent of the total fuel volume be made of ethanol. Brazil, the world's largest user of ethanol-based… Read more
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Mowing the lawn is hard work, especially on a warm day. Not only do you have to mow the grass, but you also have to dispose of the clippings. Some people add the clippings to a compost pile in their yard, which is a great idea. But did you know that some grasses can be used as a source of energy? In this energy science fair project, you will learn more about a type of energy called biomass energy. You will grow different kinds of grasses and see which type of grass gives you the most biomass,… Read more
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Most of the energy and fuel that we use in the United States is derived from burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the remains of plants and animals that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Examples of fossil fuels include coal, petroleum oil, and natural gas. Burning coal releases 21.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide— a greenhouse gas that may be responsible for global warming and climate change—into the air in one year. About half of this amount is absorbed by natural processes… Read more
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Have you considered where the gasoline that your parents put in your car comes from and how long that source will last? The fuel that most vehicles use, gasoline, is a petroleum product. Petroleum is a fossil fuel and is a nonrenewable form of energy, meaning we use it faster than it is able to be reproduced. Burning fossil fuels also produces pollutants that might hurt our environment. Using a kind of fuel from a renewable source would help save Earth's natural resources and cut down on… Read more
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Coal, gas, and oil are energy resources that are not renewable, meaning that once we use up the world's supply of these natural resources there will not be any left. There is a lot of debate about how long these resources will last. One way to ensure that we will not find ourselves in an energy crisis is to develop energy resources that are renewable. Renewable energy is a resource that cannot be used up. Investigate the many uses of renewable energy: solar energy, wind energy,… Read more

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Additional Information

Sources

Additional Support

We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:

  • Bio-Rad
  • Chevron
Free science fair projects.