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* Purdue Energy Center

April 25, 2007

DOE funds Purdue, Archer Daniels Midland biofuels research

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University and Archer Daniels Midland Co. will work together on a $5 million research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop cost-effective processes for making ethanol fuel from corn stover and other cellulosic biomass materials.

The team will be led by Nancy Ho, senior researcher from the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering (LORRE), and will include three other Purdue researchers and two from ADM. Cellulosic ethanol is an alternative fuel made from agricultural wastes, such as corn stover, cereal straw, sawdust and paper pulp, and energy crops like switchgrass, which are grown specifically for fuel production.

The Purdue-ADM project is focused on commercializing the use of highly efficient yeasts that convert  cellulosic materials into ethanol through fermentation. In 1993 Ho developed a yeast - the same type used by industry for the conversion of corn starch to ethanol - that converts straw, wood and agricultural wastes into fuel. Known as the Ho-Purdue yeast, additional advances were made in 1998 and 2004.

LORRE is a part of the biofuels programs at Purdue's Energy Center, led by the center's interim director Jay Gore. The Energy Center in Purdue's Discovery Park is supported by a multidisciplinary group of more than 75 researchers, scientists, engineers, political scientists and economists.

"One of our goals with this grant is to reduce the cost of the process and make it readily available for industry," said researcher Nathan Mosier, a member of the Purdue team.

President George Bush has announced a goal to make cellulosic ethanol cost competitive with other fuels by 2012, increase fuel efficiency for cars and trucks, and reduce America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent within 10 years.

Also known as ethyl alcohol, ethanol can be used as fuel by itself or blended with gasoline. Ethanol is more environmentally friendly and a cleaner burning fuel than gasoline.

Ethanol currently is produced when yeast ferments glucose and related hexose - or six-carbon sugars - in food crops like cane sugar, corn and other starch-rich grains. However,  Mosier said, cellulosic materials cost only about half as much as corn per ton but are more difficult than corn to convert to ethanol.

Team members from Purdue are Ho, the principal investigator; Miroslav Sedlak, a senior research scientist at LORRE and research assistant professor in agricultural and biological engineering; Mosier, a member of LORRE and an assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering; and Jiri Adamec, a research assistant professor and lead scientist and director of proteomic and metabolomic facilities in the Bindley Bioscience Center in Discovery Park. ADM's researchers are James Liaw, the project co-director, and researcher Lhing-Yew Li.

LORRE is led by Michael Ladisch, a distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering. The lab was established in 1978 to carry out research on transforming renewable resources to liquid fuels.

ADM, the world's largest ethanol producer, is based in Decatur, Ill.

Writers: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-4192, csequin@purdue.edu and Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Contact: Beth Forbes, coordinator, news and public affairs, Agricultural Communication Service, (765) 494-2722, (765) 427-5179 (cell), forbes@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

 

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