Sustainability efforts continue on strong


Photo: Logan Gaedke/Iowa State Daily

Jared Brown, left, and AJ Pollard, both co-founders and engineers with Avello Bioenergy, are half of the team working toward new applications for biomass. The group is currently working at the Biocentury Research Farm, processing corn silver and wood chips into bio oil, which can then be used as a renewable fuel.

Ivy Christianson

With companies like Avello Bioenergy Inc., Iowa State can maintain its high status as a college leader in sustainability issues.

Avello Bioenergy Inc. is a company developed by Iowa State focused on commercializing technology. It was started by AJ Pollard, Jared Brown and Cody Ellens.

Pollard, Jared and Ellens, all recent graduates from the masters program in mechanical engineering and biorenewable technologies, were approached by Robert Brown, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering, to begin a business in which they could use the knowledge obtained from their respective programs.

The three men credit much of the idea to Robert, but they ran with the idea once presented.

“Avello has transformed conventional biomass fast pyrolysis products into low cost and profitable feedstocks for renewable energy, chemical and material applications,” according to their website.

With the exclusive licenses from the ISU Research Foundation Inc., the men were given the right to use the bio oil separation technology and bioasphalt. The bioasphalt patent was developed by Christopher Williams, associate professor in civil, construction and environmental engineering while the other patent was developed by Pollard and Robert.

“[Avello Bioenergy Inc.] is a start-up company that is a spin out of Iowa State trying to commercialize technology developed at Iowa State in the mechanical engineering department,” Ellens said.

Specifically, the group utilizes fast pyrolysis technology. Ellens describes the process as heating up biomass, such as wood chips and agricultural residues, in the absence of oxygen at a temperature that vaporizes and forms non-condensable gas, pyrolysis oil and biochar products. All these products can then be used in different ways to create renewable chemicals, advanced biofuels, renewable power, heat and soil amendments.

The business has received several grants, and Iowa State has made sure to make resources available.

“We had support from the university, help from the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and a lot of pieces started falling into place once Dennis became president,” Jared said.

Dennis Banasiak was approached to become Avello’s president because of his background in developing and commercializing technology.

“He has certainly given us direction, and his contacts help our company move along; that’s been a real help,” Ellens said.

Banasiak said he knows how to interact with the agriculture and energy communities, giving him a unique background in the area. As president, he is responsible for all the activities of the company. He interacts with investors, raises funds and builds company interest.

However, the company is not at the point where they are ready to sell their products quite yet.

“We’re focusing a lot on the engineering, so there’s a lot of work associated with gathering the information and providing the proposal to give companies all the info they’ll need to make a decision,” Pollard said. “We’re also preparing for some long-term test runs which are going to take up quite a bit of our time.”

The owners really want to center attention onto their products and how their technologies are important to today’s society. Their bioasphalt was tested in the lab and found to meet all standards required for paving asphalt.

The Iowa Department of Transportation will be conducting a bike path test later this summer. The biofuel oil is suitable as a boiler fuel for industrial heat and power generation and may be blended with home heating oil to satisfy renewable energy mandates, according to the Avello website.

Banasiak said students should care about Avello Bioenergy Inc. not only because it’s a homegrown technology developed at Iowa State, but their company also utilizes incubator and development resources Iowa State has put into place to help start-up companies move quickly toward commercialization.

Ellens said this a unique technology and no one else is doing it. It gives recognition to Iowa State as a lead institution for biorenewable products and new technologies.

To learn more about Avello Bioenergy Inc., visit their website at