USF Engineering Alum Devin Walker Named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 List

Devin Walker. USF file photo.

This young pioneer in biofuels is working on turning landfill gas into diesel fuel.

By Janet Gillis

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 27, 2014) - Devin Walker, a 2012 USF graduate with a master’s degree in chemical engineering, has been named one of Forbes magazine's 30 Under 30, an honor that has the chief operating officer of Trash2Cash-Energy joining an elite group of innovators in the energy sector's spotlight.

While competing last year in the Cleantech Open, a clean technology competition for startup companies, Walker caught the attention of Forbes writer Aaron Tilley, who was looking for young entrepreneurs in the field of energy. A month later, he was notified that Forbes had selected him.

Started in 2012, the list features young entrepreneurs who are “re-inventing the world now.” This dynamic and ambitious group of inventors are generating millions and, in some cases, billions of dollars in revenues. For Walker and his colleagues at Trash2Cash-Energy (T2C-E), it’s about turning a landfill by-product into diesel fuel. If it all works out, the millions could very well come.

With a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of Florida, Walker began his career as a research scientist designing advanced alternative fuels in the private sector before decided to come to USF to pursue a master's degree.

“During those three years, I gained experience in the advanced biofuels industry,” Walker said. “I discovered if advanced biofuel was going to work, it needed to be derived from very cheap resources to be cost competitive.”

Walker chose USF for graduate school because of the biofuels research being done here in the lab supervised by the late chemical engineering professor John Wolan. Walker began his studies in 2010 under Wolan, who died unexpectedly in 2011. Fortunately, Walker was able to join another research group headed by professors Babu Joseph and John Kuhn. Along with other chemical engineering students, Ali Gardezi and Tim Roberge, T2C-E won the $100,000 grand prize in the MegaWatt Challenge and Trash2Cash was on its way to generating diesel fuel from landfill gas.

An average-sized landfill could produce 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day using T2C technologies. With 2,400 landfills in the United States, the market is a large one. Initially, the company plans to focus on Florida landfills. The group is already producing smaller quantities of diesel fuel in their lab scale unit, but before they can begin to produce the fuel on a commercial scale they must construct a pilot plant unit at a cost of $750,000. They hope to start construction in late 2014.

“Our goal is to close the loop from feedstock to finished product by fueling the landfill trucking fleet at the same place they unload trash,” Walker said. “The average landfill goes through $8,000 of diesel fuel a day.”

With 2014 as a pinnacle year for T2C-E starting with the pilot unit, the group expects the first commercial plant to be finished by 2016 with three more in operation by 2018.

“Ten years from now I envision the T2C-E technology to be implemented globally, becoming the gold standard in waste to energy technology,” he added.

With his passion for providing an environmentally friendly solution to the world’s energy needs already on the fast track, Walker sees the next step as incorporating solar energy into the process to power the commercial plants. While a student in Distinguished University Professor Yogi Goswami’s solar energy class, Walker designed a commercial plant utilizing the T2C-E process that incorporated a central solar design to power the plant. Trash2Cash has been awarded a provisional patent based on his design.

“So, the framework is already in place,” he said, “T2C-E just needs to make it happen.”

Being named one of Forbe's 30 Under 30 puts Walker in good company. Over its three-year run the list has included such notable inventors as the founders of Snapchat, Songza, Tumblr, Clinkle, Instagram, and Golden Road Brewing, just to mention a few.

Click here for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Energy and Industry list.

Janet Gillis is the Communications & Marketing Officer at USF’s College of Engineering and can be reached at