Award-Winning People 
Breakthrough Approaches and Technologies

In its search for breakthrough approaches and technologies to convert biomass feedstocks into liquid fuel,  The US Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) selected our project as one that can change the world with advanced bioenergy development.  

This project will receive up to $1 million to further develop a co-solvent pretreatment for high yields of clean fuel precursor fractions that can significantly improve downstream chemical catalytic upgrading to final biofuel additives.

2016:  $1.3 million Grant from USDA
Biomass Research and Development Initiative for Green Energy Research

Biomass Research and Development Initiative

Once again, our approach is selected as one that is vital to bring in the next generation of biofuels.

University of California Riverside in partnership with MG Fuels LLC has received a $1,297,725 award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  that will fund research on developing commercially-viable processes to create biofuels and chemicals from waste plant materials. The award will support a project that aims to convert poplar wood into ethanol and polyurethanes based on novel platforms for pretreatment and lignin polymer synthesis. The patented method licensed by MG Fuels, called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF), was developed as a versatile and efficient way to convert raw agricultural and forestry residues and other plant matter into both biofuels and chemicals.The project aims to bring industry closer to producing fuels and chemicals from biomass at high enough yields and low enough costs to become a viable alternative or replacement for petroleum-based fuels and chemicals. The current research project is expected to increase revenue for bio-refineries and offset biomass pretreatment costs to improve overall process economics.


2017 Charles Cai -- Forbes 30 Under 30

Forbes had 15,000+ nominations for just 600 spots.   Previous winners have included Mark Zuckerberg, Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel, SNL’s Kate McKinnon, Chance the Rapper, YouTube phenom Michelle Phan.
And in 2017, our Charles Cai recognized by Forbes as being one of America’s top young game-changers and entrepreneurs.

  • CTO, MG Fuels   Dr. Charles Cai cofounded MG Fuels to commercialize a biofuels process he helped develop at the University of California, Riverside that reduces the amount of enzymes used to breakdown biomass to make ethanol. Funding from the Dept. of Energy and the USDA - see details below.



Doctorate, University of California, Riverside. Bachelor of Arts / Science, University of California, Davis;

Charles Cai on Forbes Lists

CELF Sustaining® Technologies

Novel Pretreatment Cuts Enzyme Costs by About 90 Percent

UC Riverside researchers have developed a novel technology that cuts the amount of enzymes needed to produce biofuels by 90 percent or more

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

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One-Pot Catalytic Conversion of Cellulose and of Woody Biomass Solids to Liquid Fuels

Theodore D. Matson †, Katalin Barta †‡, Alexei V. Iretskii †§, and Peter C. Ford *

Efficient methodologies for converting biomass solids to liquid fuels have the potential to reduce dependence on imported petroleum while easing the atmospheric carbon dioxide burden.

Here, we report quantitative catalytic conversions of wood and cellulosic solids to liquid and gaseous products in a single stage reactor operating at 300–320 °C and 160–220 bar. Little or no char is formed during this process. The reaction medium is supercritical methanol (sc-MeOH) and the catalyst, a copper-doped porous metal oxide, is composed of earth-abundant materials. The major liquid product is a mixture of C2–C6 aliphatic alcohols and methylated derivatives thereof that are, in principle, suitable for applications as liquid fuels.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California 93110-9510, United States Center for Green Chemistry and Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, United States Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, Lake Superior State University, Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan 49783, United States J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2011, 133 (35), pp 14090–14097 DOI: 10.1021/ja205436c Publication Date (Web): August 1, 2011 Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society Section: Electrochemical, Radiational, and Thermal Energy Technology