Ratul Chowdhury

Cyclone Engineer Ratul Chowdhury is advancing biobatteries that use microbes to turn trees and plants into electricity.

Chowdhury, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, leads a project funded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Iowa Energy Center (IEC) Grant Program.

The team is using AI-based protein engineering tools to design specialized types of microbial enzymes that feed on the lignin in agricultural plant waste and woody biomass. The enzyme-lignin reaction releases a stream of electrons that can be used as a biobattery power source.

“We’re developing computationally engineered enzymes that are faster and more efficient at breaking down lignin, the world’s second most abundant renewable carbon source, into simple saccharides and energy. This breakthrough holds promise for potential integration into non-toxic, biodegradable biobattery systems that could power agricultural tools and even whole houses,” said Chowdhury.

On top of designing and testing the special microbial enzymes, Chowdhury’s group will also create a database of enzymes from several microbial strains, all of which can accelerate lignin degradation and further enhance biobattery performance.

“Our work will employ a protein-structure-guided method to forecast the kinetic parameters of enzymes, which will offer essential insights. Without AI-driven protein structure prediction, determining enzymatic parameters in the lab is resource-intensive and time-consuming, and requires specialized equipment and expertise. But, leveraging AI and data-driven parameter estimation, we have a promising new pathway to transform our understanding of the reactions, speeding up our work to create metabolically fitter microbes that can digest lignin and contribute to better biobatteries,” said Chowdhury.

Chowdhury is collaborating with Shudipto Dishari and Rajib Saha of the University of Nebraska, and Karuna Anna Sajeevan, a postdoctoral researcher, and Bibek Acharya, a graduate student in chemical and biological engineering, at Iowa State.


1 2 3 5
March 11th, 2024

Wenzhen Li, Jean-Philippe Tessonnier become Royal Society of Chemistry Fellows

Wenzhen Li (left) and Jean-Philippe Tessonnier have become part of an elite group of scientific advocates in the Royal Society […]

March 1st, 2024

“Spirit of innovation” helps lift Jean-Philippe Tessonnier to National Academy of Inventors

Jean-Philippe Tessonnier, Richard C. Seagrave Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering, has been named a Senior Member of the National […]

February 26th, 2024

Could the future of powering Iowa homes and farms be microbes?

Cyclone Engineer Ratul Chowdhury is advancing biobatteries that use microbes to turn trees and plants into electricity. Chowdhury, an assistant […]

February 13th, 2024

A better way to (re)harvest rare-earth metals

Rare-earth metals are an indispensable part of today’s high-tech consumer products. As demand for them increases, so does the need […]

December 12th, 2023

Mya O’Connell: Outstanding senior in chemical engineering

Hometown  Manly, Iowa  Clubs and activities  I work as a Resident Assistant and as a Peer Mentor. In the past, […]

November 16th, 2023

AIChE student chapter again records successes at annual meeting – including another Outstanding Student Chapter honor

The Outstanding Student Chapter award is presented at the meeting. Shown is AIChE student chapter representative Hailey Bates (center), ISU […]

October 27th, 2023

Brittany Hartwell named 2023 Cyclone Engineering Young Alumni Award winner

Brittany Hartwell (’11 chemical engineering) is a biomedical engineer advancing therapies and vaccines for illnesses affecting millions worldwide. As an […]

October 6th, 2023

Shao and Bardhan: Two faculty members in Chemical and Biological Engineering will see research advances with new appointments to professorships

Zengyi Shao, Hershel B. Whitney Professor, Global Initiatives Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) associate professor Zengyi Shao (left, […]

October 3rd, 2023

Luke Roling named Jack R. and Carol A. Johnson Faculty Fellow

Luke Roling’s computational research work in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) has received the support of the […]

September 7th, 2023

Honoring excellence: Cyclone Engineering faculty and staff award winners, named faculty positions and new patents

College of Engineering faculty and staff awards Early Achievement in Academic Advising: Holly Dunlay-Lott, student services specialist in materials science and […]