Professor of Biofuels & Biochemical Engineering

Head of New Energy Division

(+86 10) 6277-2123

Education background

PhD, Beijing University of Science & Technology, Environmental Science and Engineering, 2002

B.S., Tianjin University, Chemical Engineering, 1984


12/2005-present, Professor, Tsinghua University. Deputy Director, New Energy Division, Institute of Nuclear & New Energy Technology, Tsinghua University

07/2004-11/2005, Professor, China Agricultural University. Deputy Director, Center for Biomass Engineering, China Agricultural University.

01/2003-07/2004, Research Fellow, Department of Engineering Science, Oxford University, UK

02/2000-12/2002, Research Associate, Department of Civil Engineering, the University of Hong Kong

05/1992-12/1999, Associate Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Tianjin University

10/1987-04/1992, Research Assistant, Institute of Membrane Separation Engineering, Tianjin  

Polytechnic University

07/1984-08/1987, Engineer, Tianjin Gas Corporation, Tianjin, China

Areas of Research Interests/ Research Projects

Advanced Biofuels Study including 1.5 generation (sweet sorghum ethanol) and 2nd (cellulosic ethanol, biogas), 4th generation biofules (photosynthetic hydrogen) biofuels research. Established a primary database of Biomass Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics and fundamental research system for solid state bioreaction at nm, μm, mm, and m levels, and successfully developed and tested the largest solid state bioreactor (55m long, 3.6m diameter) for bioethanol production in the world. Developed a novel catalyst & reformer system for hydrogen production via ethanol-water reforming to protect proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) by controlling CO less than 10ppm for realizing the commercialization of indirect ethanol-fuel cell. Contributed to roadmap designing, development strategy formulating and incentive policy making for promoting Chinas Biofuel and Bioenergy industry. More than 112 publications and 30 granted innovation patents.

1.5 Generation Biofuel-Sweet Sorghum Ethanol

Ethanol from sweet sorghum stalks is internationally recognized as a 1.5 generation biofuel, bridging the 1st and the 2nd generation biofuels. The Advanced Solid-state Fermentation (ASSF) for sweet sorghum ethanol production features high efficiency, integrating feed production, less pollution and energy consumption etc. It is the key technology to achieve commercialization of sweet sorghum ethanol. The continuous solid fermentation tank with a length of 55 meters and diameter of 3.6 meters is so far the largest solid state fermentation facility with successful operation in the world. My lab firstly studied solid-state fermentation (SSF) at nanometer (nm), micrometer (μm), millimeter (mm) and meter (m) scales (4m), which involved:

· Sugar transportation from interior to surface of smashed sweet sorghum stalks in SSF. (nm)

· High-throughput selection and genetic modification of yeast with high ethanol productivity and high tolerance to heat in SSF. (μm)

· Mass and heat transfer modeling in SSF. (mm)

· Engineering scale-up of SSF. (m)

These studies largely overcame the fundamental constraints of SSF, the first to prove the feasibility of the commercialization and industrialization of SSF.

2nd Generation Biofuels-Cellulose Based Biofuels

High cost and low efficiency of conventional pretreatment methods for lignocellulose significantly hinder the industrialization of cellulosic ethanol. To break the bottlenecks, my lab developed a novel process that integrates the ethanol distillation of ASSF of sweet sorghum stalks and alkaline pretreatment of lignocellulose, named as Alkaline Distillation Process. The process dramatically decreased the energy input and equipment utilization cost of lignocellulose pretreatment and increased enzymatic reactivity of treated residue up to ~85% of theoretical cellulose conversion under high ratio of solid/liquid.

Cellulosic ethanol production using microbial consortia-driven consolidated bioprocessing (CBP). Microbial consortia have a variety of cellulase donor strains, strong multi-resistance and various auxiliary strains, which can circumvent the limitations of super microorganisms derived through genetic modification used in cellulosic ethanol production. Therefore, my lab. developed the concept of cellulosic ethanol production using microbial consortia-driven consolidated bioprocessing (CBP). We used bioinformatics, system biology evolutionary biology strategies identifying the consortias synergistic effects between the functional strains and auxiliary strains during cellulosic ethanol production, eventually constructing a stable and efficient cellulosic ethanol production system that had removed the non-functional microorganisms.

Anaerobic fermentation for biogas production from organic wastes. The following researches to improve biogas production are performed: 1) research on biogas production by utilizing banana pseudostem; 2) development of different scaled biogas fermentation platforms, which could be suitable for concentrating total solids (TS) from 2% to 20%; 3) molecular biology and molecular ecology approaches such as metagenomics, metatranscriptomics applied to research the mechanism of action of microorganism for anaerobic digestion.

Biomass Chemical Engineering

The subject investigated in Petrochemical Engineering is normally in homogeneous phase, contrarily, in Biomass Chemical Engineering, the subject investigated is in heterogeneous phase. My lab firstly established the data base of biomass chemical engineering thermodynamics, and systematically studied thermodynamics and kinetics of solid state fermentation, unit operations, and bioreactor design as well.

Ethanol Catalytic Reforming

Based on cost-competitive ethanol production by our proprietary ASSF technology, my lab has developed a novel catalyst & reformer system for hydrogen production via on board ethanol-water reforming to overcome the bottlenecks of renewable hydrogen and infrastructure of commercializing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The researches focus on trans-metal catalysts with high selectivity activity and conversion efficiency, less dosage, low price, and compact reformer with small size, light in weight, modularity interface, which can be used in large and medium-sized passenger car.

4th Generation Biofuel- Photosynthetic Hydrogen Production Using Microalgae

The research mainly focus on the development of efficient microalgal fuel cell system for efficient conversion of H2 to electricity. A combined system of blue-green algae with a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) was constructed and tested. We obtained the LCE of solar to electricity as high as 1.13% by enhancing photo-H2 production in Cyanobacterium Anabaena cylindrical, which is the highest efficiency in microalgae-PEMFC system reported yet. The tetrameric assembly structure of Photosystem I is also studied to understand the mechanism of high hydrogen production efficiency.

Research Status

2017 2019

The Construction of Thermotolerant Yeasts for Bioethanol Production Based on Solid-State Fermentation by Global Gene Modification

2015 2018

Study on Regulation of cyanobacteria for High Efficient Photosynthetic Hydrogen Coupling with biogas Production from Algae Biomass by Anaerobic Fermentation


Engineering Demonstration and Technology Integration of Anaerobic Fermentation of Urban Organic Wastes to Biogas


Study on Screen and Construction of Microbials for Biomass Degradation with High Efficiency

Honors And Awards

Third Prize of Tianjin Science &Technology Progress Award in 1998, Tianjin Municipal Government

Third Prize of China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Science & Technology Progress Award in 2017, China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation

Academic Achievement


Lang Zhu, Shizhong Li, Limin Cao, et al, Overexpression of SFA1 in engineered Saccharomyces Cerevisiae to increase xylose utilization and ethanol production from different lignocellulose hydrolysates. Bioresource Technology, 2020, 313,

Ming Chen, Shizhong Li, A. Amunts, et al, Distinct structural modulation of photosystem I and lipid environment stabilizes its tetrameric assembly. Nature Plants, 2020, 6, 314320.

Hongshen Li , Shizhong Li, Optimization of Continuous Solid-State Distillation Process for Cost-Effective Bioethanol Production. Energies, 2020, 134, 854; doi:10.3390/en13040854

Xiangwen Guan, Zhixing Zhou, Shizhong Li, Establishment and verification of a model for the movement of pulverized sweet sorghum stalks in a rotary drum bioreactor by discrete element method. Particuology, 2019, available online on 30 Nov. 2019.

Ming Chen, Yanxue Li, Shizhong Li, A novel native bioenergy green alga can stably grow on waste molassesunder variable temperature conditions. Energy Conversion and Management, 2019, 196:751-758

Pengsong Li, Xiaofen Fu, Shizhong Li, Proteomic profiling and integrated analysis with transcriptomic data bring new insights in the stress responses of Kluyveromyces marxianus after an arrest during high-temperature ethanol fermentation, Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2019, 12(1):49

Xiaofen Fu, Pengsong Li, Shizhong Li, Understanding the stress responses of Kluyveromyces marxianus after an arrest during high-temperature ethanol fermentation based on integration of RNA-Seq and metabolite data, Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2019, 103: 2715-2729

Pengsong Li, Lei Zhang, Shizhong Li, CRISPR/Casbased screening of a gene activation library in Saccharomyces cerevisiae identifies a crucial role of OLE1 in thermotolerance. Microbial Biotechnology. First published: 05 November 2018

Pengsong Li, Xiaofen Fu, Shizhong Li. Engineering TATA-binding protein Spt15 to improve ethanol tolerance and production in Kluyveromyces marxianus. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2018, 11: 207

Quanzhou Feng, Z. Lewis Liu, Shizhong Li, Signature pathway expression of xylose utilization in the genetically engineered industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. PLOS ONE. First published: April 5, 2018

Xiaofen Fu, Pengsong Li, Shizhong Li, RNA-Seq-based transcriptomic analysis of Saccharomyces cerevisiae during solid-state fermentation of crushed sweet sorghum stalks. Process Biochemistry, 2018, 68:53-63.

Zhongcai Xue, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, Bioaccumulation and photosynthetic activity response of sweet sorghum seedling (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) to cadmium stress. Photosynthetica 2018, 56(4): 1422-1428

Juanjuan Feng, Yinxin Li, Shizhong Li, et al, Comparative transcriptome combined with morpho-physiological analyses revealed key factors for differential cadmium accumulation in two contrasting sweet sorghum genotypes. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 2018, 16: 558571 doi: 10.1111/pbi.12795

Pengsong Li, Xiaofen Fu, Shizhong Li, et al, The transcription factors Hsf1 and Msn2 of thermotolerant Kluyveromyces marxianus promote cell growth and ethanol fermentation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae at high temperatures. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2017, 10:289 DOI: 10.1186/s13068-017-0984-9

Menghui Yu, Chengming Zhang, Shizhong Li, et al, A Comparison of NaOH, Fenton, and Their Combined Pretreatments for Improving Saccharification of Corn Stalks. Energy and Fuels, 2017, 31(10): 10983-10989.

Naeim Ezzatahmadi, Shizhong Li, Yunfei Xi, Clay-supported nanoscale zero-valent iron composite materials for the remediation of contaminated aqueous solutions: A Review. Chemical Engineering Journal 2017,312: 336350.

Weitao Jia, Shizhong Li, Yinxin Li, et al, Identification for the capability of Cd-tolerance, accumulation and translocation of 96 sorghum genotypes. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 2017, 145:391-397.

Guangming Li, Jihong Li, Shizhong Liet al., Extraction of bioethanol from fermented sweet sorghum bagasse by batch distillation. Korean Journal of Chemical Engineering, 2017, 341):127-132

Quanzhou Feng, Ming Chen, ShizhongLi, et al., Study on the harvest of oleaginous microalgae Chlorella sp. by photosynthetic hydrogen mediated auto-flotation for biodiesel production. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2016, 41: 16772-16777

Chengming Zhang, Shenglei Bi, Shizhong Li, et al, Biogas Production Performance of Different Components from Banana Stems. Energy & Fuels, 2016, 30: 64256429.

Weitao Jia, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al, Morphophysiological characteristic analysis demonstrated the potential of sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) in the phytoremediation of cadmium-contaminated soils. Environ Sci Pollut Res. 2016, 23(18):18823-31 DOI 10.1007/s11356-016-7083-5

Menghui Yu, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al, Bioethanol production using the sodium hydroxide pretreated sweet sorghum bagasse without washing. Fuel, 2016, 175:20-25.

Zhou, Z., Li, J, Li, S, et al. Enhancing mixing of cohesive particles by baffles in a rotary drum. Particuology, 2016, 25, 104-110.

Zhipei Yan, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, Lignin relocation contributed to the alkaline pretreatment efficiency of sweet sorghum bagasse. Fuel, 2015, 158:152-158

Guifang Fan, Yan Jiang, Shizhong Li, et al, The Application of Near infrared Spectrometry in process monitoring of Solid-State Fermentation of Sweet Sorghum Stalks. Journal of near infrared spectroscopy. 2015, 23, 293299

Jinhui Wang, Yinxin Li, Shizhong Li, et al, Lignin engineering through laccase modification: a promising field for energy plant improvement. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2015, 8:145 DOI 10.1186/s13068-015-0331-y

Hongyu Li, Yuanlong Pan, Shizhong Li, et al, Transcriptomic analysis of Clostridium thermocellum in cellulolytic consortium after artificial reconstruction to enhance ethanol production. BioResoures, 2015, 10(4), 7105-7122.

Zhipei Yan, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al, Impact of Lignin Removal on the Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Fermented Sweet Sorghum Bagasse. Applied Energy, 2015, 160:641-647.

Ran Du, Jianbin Yan, Shizhong Li, et al, Cellulosic ethanol production by natural bacterial consortia is enhanced by Pseudoxanthomonas taiwanensis. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2015, 8:10-19 DOI 10.1186/s13068-014-0186-7

Yueying Mao, Jihong Li , Shizhong Li , et alThe mass transfer of sugar in sweet sorghum stalks for solid-state fermentation process. Fuel, 2015, 144:90-95

Ting Cui, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al. The Correlation between the Enzymatic Saccharification and the Multidimensional Structure of Cellulose Changed by Different Pretreatments. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2014, 7:134 doi:10.1186/s13068-014-0134-6.

Ming Chen, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al, Auto-flotation of heterocyst enables the efficient production of renewable energy in cyanobacteria. Scientific Reports, 2014; 4:3998.

Ran Du; Jianbin Yan, Shizhong Li, et al, A Novel Wild-Type Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Strain TSH1 in Scaling-Up of Solid-State Fermentation of Ethanol from Sweet Sorghum Stalks. PLOS ONE, 2014, 9(4): e94480.

Menghui YuJihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al, A cost-effective integrated process to convert solid-state fermented sweet sorghum bagasse into cellulosic ethanol. Applied Energy, 2014, 115:331-336

Ming Chen, Shizhong Li, et al, Characterization of cell growth and photobiological H2 production of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in ASSF industry wastewater. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2014, 39:13462-13467.

Meng Li Liangcai Peng ShizhongLi et al, Sugar-rich sweet sorghum is distinctively affected by wall polymerfeatures for biomass digestibility and ethanol fermentation in bagasse. Bioresource Technology, 2014, 167:14-23.

Menghui Yu, Shizhong Li, et al, Optimization of ethanol production from NaOH pretreated solid state fermented sweet sorghum bagasse. Enerigies, 2014, 7: 4054-4067

Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al. A novel cost-effective technology to convert sucrose and homocelluloses in sweet sorghum stalks into ethanol. Biotechnology for Biofuels 2013, 6:174-185

Chengming Zhang, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al. Alkaline pretreatment for enhancement of biogas production from banana stem and swine manure by anaerobic co-digestion. Bioresource Technology, 2013, 149:353358.

Shizhong Li*, Guangming Li, Lei Zhang, et al. A demonstration study of ethanol production from sweet sorghum stems with advanced solid state fermentation technology. Applied Energy, 2013, 102: 260265

Shaoxin Li, Jihong Li, Shizhong Li, et al. Study on enzymatic saccharification of Suaeda salsa as a new potential feedstock for bio-ethanol production. J. Taiwan Inst. Chem. Eng. 2013,44: 904910

Fengcheng Li, Liangcai Peng, Shizhong Li, et al. Arabinose substitution degree in xylan positively affects lignocellulose enzymatic digestibility after various NaOH/H2SO4 pretreatments in Miscanthus. Bioresource Technology 2013, 130 : 629637

An Li, Yanan Chu, Shizhong Li, et al. A pyrosequencing-based metagenomic study of methane-producing microbial community in solid-state biogas reactor. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 2013, 6 (3): 1-17


Shizhong Li.  A Method for Safe Utilization of Cadmium-contaminated Farmland Based on the Multifunctional Crop Sweet Sorghum.  PCT/CN2018/093682, 201710569552.8, 2020-04-21.

Shizhong Li.  An Integrated Method for the Treatment of Sweet Sorghum Absorbed with Heavy Metals.  PCT/CN2018/093681, 201710569370.0, 2019-08-12

Shizhong Li. The Process and Device for Producing Ethanol by Continuous Solid State Fermentation with Automatic Control System: PCT/CN2014/071580, AU2016100122 2016-05-25

Shizhong Li. Continuous Solid State Separation Process and Device for Producing Ethanol. PCT/CN2014/071587US 10239806 B2 2020-03-26