Nolan Orfield



PhD, University of Michigan (resource policy & behavior)

MSE, University of Michigan (mechanical engineering)

MS, University of Michigan (sustainable systems)

BS, University of Notre Dame (mechanical engineering)

(734) 615-2604


Dr. Orfield is interested in product design and the role that life cycle modeling can play in the creation of products that serve rather than deplete the planet. His background in both entrepreneurship and academic research position him to understand not only the complex interaction between goods and the natural world, but also the design constraints required for commercialization. Dr. Orfield’s experience as a vocational instructor in the Republic of the Marshall Islands incited an ambition to become more active in the field of design in the developing world. His startup experiences are diverse, including founding a construction cost estimating software company, cofounding a life sciences research tool company, and cofounding a small-scale organic waste-to-energy company. Dr. Orfield’s doctoral research focused on the life cycle design of an algal biofuel that is sustainable, scalable, and salable. In the Winter of 2013 he joined the school and the Center for Sustainable Systems as a Lecturer.

Select publications: 
  • Orfield, N.D., A. J. Fang, G.A. Keoleian, P. J. Valdez, M.C. Nelson, X.N. Lin, and P.E. Savage. Life cycle design of an algal biorefinery featuring hydrothermal liquefaction: effect of reaction conditions and alternative pathway including microbial regrowth.Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2014 (under review). 

  • Orfield, N.D., R.B. Levine, G.A. Keoleian, S.A. Miller, and P.E. Savage. Growing algae for biodiesel on sunlight or sugars: a comparative life cycle assessment. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014 (under review). 

  • Orfield, N.D., G.A. Keoleian, and N.G. Love. A GIS based national assessment of algal biofuel production potential through flue gas and wastewater co-utilization. Biomass and Bioenergy, 2014 (in press).

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