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K-State Today

January 18, 2012



Bioprocessing engineer named one of top scientists in Kansas

By Communications and Marketing

Work by a Kansas State University bioengineer is not only recycling and reducing environmental pollutants, it is also earning him a spot as one of the state's top researchers.

Sigifredo Castro Diaz, a bioprocessing engineer with the university's Advanced Manufacturing Institute, was named by the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative as one of the top 150 scientists ever to work in Kansas throughout its 150 years of statehood.

Diaz develops and tests new bio-based products and processes.

Recently a U.S. patent was issued for a phosphorus reduction system -- called Phred for short -- that was developed by Diaz and colleagues. The system removes up to 60 percent of the phosphorus in the wastewater from cattle feedlots. As a result, it decreases water pollution in lakes and reservoirs, as well as decreasing the amount of algae blooms that result from the excess phosphate.

Similarly, Diaz is also looking at ways to decrease phosphorus in cattle feed, which will prevent excess phosphorus from entering the ecosystem.

In addition to reducing phosphorus, Diaz is also developing and studying pilot systems for phytoremediation, anaerobic bacteria, biotechnology and bioseparations -- all aimed at better waste treatment.

"Engineering and science education give you the knowledge and tools it takes to design potential solutions for a wide variety of real-world challenges," Diaz said. "In the course of my graduate work at the chemical engineering department at K-State, I developed a strong interest in the environmental management of wastewaters originated from industrial facilities and agricultural fields. I find it very exciting to discover overlooked opportunities to economically recover useful byproducts or generate energy from waste streams, while at the same time, protecting the ecosystem."

Throughout 2011, Ad Astra spotlighted 150 Kansas researchers, scientists, inventors and engineers from the past to the present who have advanced the scientific field in Kansas' 150 years of statehood. The initiative's project, "Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting," celebrated the state's sesquicentennial and emphasized the importance of science and the career possibilities in research and innovation to K-12 students.

Diaz is the one of the 21 active faculty researchers at K-State to be named among Kansas' top 150 scientists. He joins other historically noted state researchers on the list like George Washington Carver, Charles H. Sternberg, Clyde Cessna and Hall Livingstone Hibbard.