UMBI to research lignocellulose

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted August 8, 2008 at 9:29 a.m. CST

The University of Maryland Biosciences Institute has been awarded a $575,000 three-year subcontract from the University of California at Berkeley to fund research to develop more efficient ways to convert lignocellulose to ethanol. The experiments will utilize municipal paper waste such as wood residues, energy crops such as woody grasses and agricultural wastes such as corn stover.

The joint project is part of a broader research effort at the Energy Biosciences Institute, and of an anticipated decade-long partnership between BP, the University of California at Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois. The $500 million energy research consortium was formed in 2007 and receives funding by BP.

Research will be headed by Dr. Frank Robb of UMBI's Center of Marine Biotechnology, along with Dr. Douglas Clark and Dr. Harvey Black of Berkeley's Chemical Engineering Department.

The goal of the current project is to develop new experimental systems to study cellulosome degradation of cellulosic biomass. According to UMBI, the research team will focus in particular working to discover stable, high-temperature enzymes which may increase process efficiency, minimize contamination and facilitate the isolation of purified fuel product by evaporation.

Besides cellulosic biofuels, the consortium plans to also research feedstock development, biomass depolymerization, biofuel production and the socio-economic impacts of cellulosic biofuels development.