US, India partner on advanced biofuels research

By Erin Voegele | May 01, 2012

The U.S. DOE recently announced selections for three consortia that will make up the $125 million U.S.-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center. The consortia will bring together experts from national laboratories, universities and industry in both the U.S. and India. The researchers will leverage their expertise in several areas, including advanced biofuels, solar technology, and building efficiency. The aim is to unlock the potential of clean energy technologies that can reduce energy use, cut dependence on foreign oil, and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources.

“This innovative research program will help promote clean energy, create jobs, and open export opportunities for U.S. business,” said David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs. "By bringing some of our best scientific and technical minds together, we can strengthen both our great nations.”

According to the DOE, the 2nd Generation Biofuels consortium will focus on the development of advanced lignocellulosic biofuel systems. The University of Florida will lead the U.S. team, which also includes the University of Missouri, Virginia Tech, Montclair State University, Texas A&M University, Show Me Energy and Green Technologies. The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology-Hyderabad will lead the Indian team, which also includes International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics-Hyderabad, Directorate of Sorghum Research-Hyderabad, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University-Hyderabad, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Rajamatha Vijayaraje Sindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalay, Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology-Chennai and Abellon Clean Energy.

“This award highlights many of the attributes that make the University of Florida a world-class research institution,” said David Norton, UF vice president for research. “It illustrates our commitment to building interdisciplinary partnerships, both domestically and internationally, to achieve important scientific goals such as developing renewable clean-energy solutions.”

Information released by the University of Florida noted that the initial focus will be to concentrate on improving biomass conversion technologies, and that much of the work will take place in the on-campus pilot plant and the Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant in Perry. The Stan Mayfield plant is a joint venture between the University of Florida and Buckeye Technologies Inc.

A primary goal of the research team will be to develop and optimize feedstocks. The team intends to work with high-yield biomass sorghum, sweet sorghum, pearl millet, bamboo and switchgrass. “Another goal is to expand our capacity to utilize waste streams in the cellulosic ethanol conversion process,” said Pratap Pullammanappallil, an associate professor with the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “The researchers will investigate ways of using spent feedstocks, wastewater and other materials to produce additional bioenergy and products such as fertilizers and bioplastics.”

Total funding designated for the biofuels project is approximately $21 million. About $2.7 million of federal funding is expected to be awarded to the University of Florida. The DOE noted that as part of the five-year initiative, the DOE plans to make a total of $5 million available for the entire program in 2012, with requests for an additional $20 million over the following four years. The Indian government is also committing $25 million to fund the program. U.S. and India consortia members have pledged an additional $75 million in matching funds.