Private sector partnerships help NCERC break new ground

By NCERC | July 26, 2013

The NCERC at Sothern Illinois University Edwardsville is again reaping the benefits of its partnerships with the private sector in the form of donated equipment that enables the center to conduct advanced biofuels research.

In June, Littleford Day Inc. provided the center with its Littleford DVT-130 polyphase system via a 90-day, no-cost lease. The center leveraged the value of the no-cost lease as matching funds for research grants from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity. As a result, the center was able to expand upon its ground-breaking investigation of new pretreatment technologies for cellulose and biomass cellulose used in the production of advanced biofuels.

“This reactor enables NCERC to continue its grant-funded research at a scale not currently achievable in a laboratory setting,” research engineer Terry Lash said. “We’ve also had interest from the private sector in this type of work, and the Littleford reactor allows us to draw those clients in the door. In fact, simply having the equipment in the facility has already generated new opportunities and interest from clients for research beyond the purposes we anticipated.”

The DVT-130, marketed as a mixer, dryer, and reactor, is primarily used by the center for the investigation of new pretreatment technologies. The DVT-130 is also designed for medium and high intensity mixing of liquid and dry ingredients, low temperature vacuum drying, sterilization using steam injection, and high temperature drying and reacting. Exposure to the NCERC’s vast array of clients and visitors is one of the primary motivations for companies such as Littleford Day to install their equipment at the center at no cost.

Center Executive Director John Caupert said the reactor contributes to the center’s scope of advanced biofuels research capabilities and is a prime example of the types of public private partnerships the center has excelled at creating.

“The NCERC is the only facility in the world at which corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, advanced biofuels, and specialty chemical research is conducted simultaneously,” Caupert said. “Partnerships with companies like Littleford Day enable us to continue offering our clients maximum flexibility and diversity in our research capabilities, while simultaneously advancing our own research for the public sector. We are fortunate to be uniquely equipped to bring the public and private sectors together for these mutually beneficial collaborations.”

“We are excited by the opportunity to gain valuable exposure of our process technology to the advanced biomass industry,” Littleford Day North Central Sales Manager Shawn Hearn said. “The center has incredible relationships within the industry, and partnering with them allows us the opportunity to introduce our technologies to new audiences.”

The reactor is not the first equipment donated to the center by private clients, who have installed process instruments, electrical control systems, and many of the components of the center’s unique fermentation suite. In 2011, NCERC installed a corn fractionation system valued at $4.5 million, of which $1M of equipment and service was donated by Cereal Process Technologies. In addition, Siemens donated a $1M distributed process control system in 2006.

Littleford Day and other donors benefit from their partnerships with the center through technology demonstrations that provide exposure to potential clients, tax benefits for the value of the donation, and attribution in any public research or scholarly articles published on experiments using the equipment.

“When we conduct client research using Littleford technology, the client is likely to go to Littleford to invest in the equipment when they decide to scale up their process,” Lash said. “Furthermore, Littleford is privy to any public research we accomplish using their technology and will be cited in any scholarly literature we publish as a result of that research. “