Biofuel development gets $10 million in funding from Department of Energy

Biofuel development gets $10 million in funding from Department of Energy

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News & Events - Engineering News

January 8, 2013

With global attention focused on the almost-predictable decision of the U.S government to not fall over the fiscal cliff just yet, supporters of biofuels will be pleased to know that the last-minute handshakes also extended a number of expiring sustainability incentives.

According to the Department of Energy, this will allow the Obama Administration to continue along the path of sustainable engineering research and renewable energy development, with the agency announcing that it would be awarding $10 million in funding toward five bio-based technology products. Scientists and engineers working on projects in California, Washington, Texas and Maryland will be awarded varying sums of money to continue their studies, with advocates of the energy resource calling it a "job saver."

"The five projects support the Energy Department's broader biomass portfolio which focuses on research, development and demonstration efforts to achieve affordable, scalable and sustainable advanced biofuels," the DOE announced in a press release on January 3. "Two of these projects will develop cost-effective ways to produce intermediates from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, while three projects will propose new conversion techniques to transform biomass intermediates into advanced biofuels and bioproducts."

All of the projects selected by the DOE use innovative engineering techniques to convert biomass into processable sugars that can be converted into bioproducts, with a particular emphasis on transportation. Each research team will be able to call upon a number of resources to continue the development of their product, with some national laboratories and universities already involved.

Two of the five projects are in California, with Novozymes and Lygos receiving up to $2.5 million and $1.8 million, respectively. Davis-based Novozymes works with a series of regional partners to find new strands of enzymes to deconstruct biomass into processable components, while Lygos, located in Berkeley, is using engineering tools to convert biomass into common chemicals.

The J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, will receive up to $1.2 million to develop new methods of efficient biomass deconstruction, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, will be using $2.4 million to increase the production of fuel molecules in fungi.

Last but by no means least, Texas AgriLife Research will also receive up to $2.4 million to develop state-of-the-art technology to produce a unique platform for converting lignin, a lignocellulosic material, into biofuel precursors. This research will be a collaboration of scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, Washington State University, and Texas A&M University.

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