U.S. DOE Awards up to $4 Million to Develop Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts

Lignin for biofuels
Lignin, a key component of plant cell walls, is normally synthesized from three simple monolignols (top). The hydroxyl group (OH), shown in red, must remain unmodified for these precursors to link up. Liu's team created a novel enzyme (green "ribbon" structure) that can methylate this specific hydroxyl group. This enzyme may therefore lead to ways to interfere with lignin biosynthesis in plants to make them easier to break down for biofuels. Image courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The U.S. DOE today announced two additional projects selected to receive up to $4 million to develop next-generation biofuels that will help reduce the cost of producing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass. These projects—in addition to five projects previously selected in October 2014 under the same funding opportunity—total a $17.3 million investment by the Department to develop technologies that will enable the production of clean, renewable, and cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon of gasoline equivalent by 2022.

Advancing and commercializing cost-competitive biofuels will help the Department work toward its goal of reducing current petroleum consumption in the United States and, in turn, enhance U.S. national security and reduce carbon emissions.

These competitively selected research and development projects, located in Texas and Ohio, will focus on lowering biofuel production costs by converting lignin to valuable products other than heat and power.

The projects selected include:

  • Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas, will receive up to $2.5 million to develop a single-unit process to convert lignin for increased utilization in the production of bioplastics.
  • Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, will receive up to $1.5 million to develop a continuous flow electrochemical reactor that upgrades biorefinery waste lignin to bio-based phenol substitutes with cogeneration of hydrogen.

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