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DOE Renews Biofuels Funding for Research Partnership

Fri, 04/05/2013 - 3:01pm
At MSU's Kellogg Biological Station, GLBRC researchers are evaluating the performance of a variety of novel bioenergy crop production systems for crop yield and quality, impacts on microbial-plant interactions, biogeochemical and biodiversity responses and water use. (Source: Michigan State University/Kurt Stepnitz)The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded the University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University $125 million to continue their work on advanced biofuels.
 
The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, housed at UW-Madison and includes a major partnership with MSU, will use the five-year grant to continue its work providing the basic scientific foundation for the sustainable, large-scale production of advanced cellulosic biofuels technologies to help meet the nation’s growing energy needs.
 
“GLBRC researchers, in partnership with the state of Wisconsin, the state of Michigan and affiliated industries, have made substantial progress toward developing the next generation of advanced biofuels,” said Tim Donohue, GLBRC director and UW-Madison professor of bacteriology. 
 
“Renewal by the Department of Energy permits us to build on these scientific breakthroughs and accelerate our efforts to develop sustainable biofuels strategies, from growing plants for use as energy feedstocks to exploring novel ways to convert the non-edible components of plants into fuels for the automotive, diesel and aviation sector,” he said.
 
Rather than focus its effort on designing an ideal biomass crop or a single conversion platform, the GLBRC is taking a holistic “field to fuel approach,” that evaluates the energy efficiency, sustainability and economic viability of several technologies. 
 
“This approach allows farmers or fuel producers in different parts of the country to select the pieces of our technology that work best for their crops, climate or fuels,” said Ken Keegstra, GLBRC scientific director and MSU Distinguished Professor of plant biology and of biochemistry and molecular biology.
 
Since its 2007 launch, the GLBRC has coordinated 60 invention disclosures and 58 patent applications, and is working with outside companies on 17 potential licenses or options. In 2012, the center celebrated two significant milestones: the first U.S. patent and the licensing of GLBRC technology to Hyrax Energy – the first company to emerge from the center.
 
“MSU is proud of the expertise and experience we bring to this effort, from our world-renowned plant research to our faculty in engineering, agricultural economics and education, as well as the scientists at the scale-up facilities at MBI,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “The GLBRC has provided unprecedented opportunities for us to collaborate across campuses and disciplines, and we know that this integrated approach will drive the most powerful solutions to our energy challenges.”
 
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