Christopher M. Saffron

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Christopher Saffron

Dr. Chris Saffron’s research program investigates the use of thermochemical, electrochemical, and catalytic technologies for converting plant biomass into liquid fuels, solid fuels, and higher value products.  His students have developed electrocatalytic techniques for pyrolysis oil stabilization and upgrading to produce hydrocarbon fuels.  Using electrocatalytic reduction, the energy upgrading of lignin-derived phenolics to form cyclohexanol and alkyl cyclohexanols is an active area of interest.  Recently, his group has begun examining the regional deployment of these deconstruction and conversion technologies in small-scale biomass upgrading depots to balance the competing forces of “economies of scale” and “economies of transportation.” Sustainability analyses, including life-cycle assessment and technoeconomic modeling, are performed to better design renewable energy systems and to inform public policy. His research team is currently working with numerous industrial partners as well as state and federal agencies to better understand the mechanisms controlling the productivity of these technologies and to foster strategies that alleviate the risks associated with their eventual commercialization.

2005 Ph.D. Michigan State University-Chemical Engineering and Material Science
1995 B.S. Michigan State University-Chemical Engineering

2014 CANR Excellence in Teaching Award-Established Teacher

2014 Withrow Teaching Excellence Award in Biosystems Engineering

2012 Withrow Teaching Excellence Award in Biosystems Engineering

2011 Withrow Teaching Excellence Award in Biosystems Engineering

2010 Withrow Teaching Excellence Award in Biosystems Engineering

1995 Awarded membership in Pi Mu Epsilon-Mathematics Honor Society


1. Lam, C.H.; Das, S.; Erickson, N. C.; Hyzer, C.D.; Garedew, M.; Anderson, J.E.; Wallington, T.J.; Tamor, M.A.; Jackson, J.E.; Saffron, C.M. “Towards sustainable hydrocarbon fuels with biomass fast pyrolysis oil and electrocatalytic upgrading.”  Sustainable Energy and Fuels.  2017. 1. 258-266.

2. Safferman, S.I.; Smith, J.S.; Dong, Y.; Saffron, C.M.; Wallace, J.M.; Binkley, D.; Thomas, M.R.; Miller, S.A.; Bissel, E.; Booth, J.; Lenz, J.  “Resources from Wastes: Benefits and Complexity.”  Journal of Environmental Engineering.  2017. 143(11): 03117005.

3. Fasahati, P.; Saffron, C.M.; Woo, H.C. Liu, J.J. “Potential of brown algae for sustainable electricity production through anaerobic digestion.”  Energy Conservation and Management.  2017. 135. 297-307.

4. Parkhurst, K.M.; Saffron, C.M.; Miller, R.O. “An energy analysis comparing biomass torrefaction in depots to wind with natural gas combustion for electricity generation.” Applied Energy. 2016. 9. 171-181.

5. Chai, L.; Saffron, C.M.; Yang, Y.; Zhang, Z.; Munro, R.W.; Kriegel, R.M.  “Integration of decentralized torrefaction with centralized catalytic pyrolysis to produce green aromatics from coffee grounds.” Bioresource Technology. 2016. 201. 287-292.

6. Chai, L.; Saffron, C.M. “Comparing pelletization and torrefaction depots: Optimization of depot capacity and biomass moisture to determine the minimum production cost.”  Applied Energy. 2016. 163. 387-395.

7. Okoroigwe, E.; Li, Z.; Kelkar, S.; Saffron, C.M.; Onyegegbu, S. “Bio-oil yield potential of some tropical woody biomass.” Journal of Energy in Southern Africa. 2015. 26(2): 33-41.

8. Kelkar, S.; Saffron, C.M.; Chai, L; Bovee, J.; Stuecken, T.; Garedew, M.; Li, Z.; Kriegel, R.M.  “Pyrolysis of spent coffee grounds using a screw-conveyor reactor.”  Fuel Processing Technology. 2015. 137. 170-178. 

9. Chen, R.; Rojas-Downing, M.M.; Zhong, Y.; Saffron, C.M.; Liao, W. “Life cycle and economic assessment of anaerobic co-digestion of dairy manure and food waste.” Industrial Biotechnology. 2015. 11(2): 127-139. 

10. Kelkar, S.; Saffron, C.M.; Andreassi, K.; Li, Z.; Murkute, A.; Miller, D.J.; Pinnavaia, T.J.; Kriegel, R.M. "A survey of catalysts for aromatics from fast pyrolysis of biomass." Applied Catalysis B: Environmental. 2015. 174. 85-95.

11. Lam, C.H.; Lowe, C.B.; Li, Z.; Longe, K.N.; Rayburn, J.T.; Caldwell, M.A.; Houdek, C.E.; Maguire, J.B.; Saffron, C.M.; Miller, D.J.; Jackson, J.E. “Electrocatalytic upgrading of model lignin monomers with Earth abundant metal electrodes.”  Green Chemistry. 2015.  17. 601-609.

12. Kelkar, S.; Saffron, C.M.; Li, Z.; Kim, S.-S.; Pinnavaia, T.J.; Miller, D.J.; Kriegel, R. “Aromatics from biomass pyrolysis vapour using a bifunctional mesoporous catalyst.” Green Chemistry. 2014. 16. 803-812.

13. Li, Z.; Kelkar, S.; Raycraft, L.; Garedew, M.; Jackson, J.E.; Miller, D.J.; Saffron, C.M. “A mild approach for bio-oil stabilization and upgrading: electrocatalytic hydrogenation using ruthenium supported on activated carbon cloth.” Green Chemistry. 2014. 16, 844-852.

14. Andreassi, K.; Kelkar, S.; Saffron, C.M. “Aromatic hydrocarbons from biomass fast pyrolysis and catalysis.” Red Cedar Undergraduate Research. 2013. 4, 29-31.

15. Stoklosa, R.J.; Velez, J.; Kelkar, S.; Saffron, C.M.; Thies, M.C.; Hodge, D.B. “Correlating Lignin Structural Features to Phase Partitioning Behavior in a Novel Aqueous Fractionation of Softwood Kraft Black Liquor.” Green Chemistry. 2013. 15, 2904-2912.

16. Li, Z.; Garedew, M.; Lam, C.H.; Jackson, J.E.; Miller, D.J.; Saffron, C.M. “Mild electrocatalytic hydrogenation and hydrodeoxygenation of bio-oil derived phenolic compounds using ruthenium Supported on activated carbon cloth” Green Chemistry. 2012. 14, 2540-2549.

17. Li, Z.; Kelkar, S.; Lam, C.H.; Luczek, K.; Jackson, J.E.; Miller, D.J.; Saffron, C.M. “Aqueous electrocatalytic hydrogenation of furfural to furfuryl alcohol and 2-methylfuran using a sacrificial anode.” Electrochimica Acta. 2012. 64, 87-93.

18. Thelen, K.D.; Gao, J.; Hoben, J.; Qian, L.; Saffron, C.M.; Withers, K. “A spreadsheet-based model for teaching the agronomic, economic and environmental aspects of bioenergy cropping systems.” Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 2012. 85, 157-163.

19. Okoroigwe, E.C.; Li, Z.; Onyegegbu, S.O.; Saffron, C.M. “Maximizing the energy potential of palm kernel shell by pyrolytic conversion to biofuel.” Proceedings of the Fourth International Renewable Energy Congress. Peer reviewed. 2012.

20. Okoroigwe, E.C.; Saffron, C.M. “Determination of the bioenergy potential of palm kernel shell by physicochemical characterization.” Nigerian Journal of Technology. 2012. 31, 329-335.

21. Okoroigwe, E.; Li, Z.; Stuecken, T.; Saffron, C.M.; Onyegegbu, S. “Pyrolysis of Gmelina arborea wood for bio-oil/biochar production: Physical and chemical characterization of the products.” Journal of Applied Sciences. 2012. 12(4), 369-374.

22. Li, M.; Foster, C.; Kelkar, S.; Pu, Y.; Holmes, D.; Ragauskas, A.; Saffron, C.M.; Hodge, D.B. “Structural characterization of alkaline hydrogen peroxide pretreated grasses exhibiting diverse lignin phenotypes.” Biotechnology for Biofuels. 2012. 5(38).

23. Leistritz, F.L.; Hodur, N.M.; Senechal, D.M.; Stowers, M.D.; McCalla, D.; and Saffron, C.M. “Use of agricultural residue feedstock in North Dakota biorefineries.” Journal of Agribusiness. 2009, 27, 17-32.

24. Safferman, S.; Liao, W.; and Saffron, C.M. “Engineering the bioeconomy.” Journal of Environmental Engineering-ASCE. 2009, 135, 1085.

25. Saffron, C.M.; Park, J.-H.; Dale, B.E.; and Voice, T.C. “Kinetics of contaminant desorption from soil: comparison of model formulations using the Akaike Information Criterion.” Environmental Science and Technology. 2006, 40, 7662-7667.

26. Garedew, M.; Kelkar, S.; Sousa, L.; Li, Z.; Lam, C.H.; Jackson, J.E.; Dale, B.E.; Saffron, C.M. “Pyrolysis and electrocatalysis of extractive ammonia-processed lignin to increase the value of sugar-platform based bioenergy systems.” (782c) Sustainability Engineering Forum. American Institute for Chemical Engineering Annual Meeting. 2013.

27. Saffron, C.M.; Jackson, J.E.; Li, Z.; Lam, C.H.; Garedew, M.; Erickson, N.; Kelkar, S. “Beyond Ethanol: Hydrocarbon fuels from decentralized fast pyrolysis and electrocatalysis.” (284c) Sustainability Engineering Forum. American Institute for Chemical Engineering Annual Meeting. 2013.