08/25/2009 Archived Entry: "CAER and Others Receive $1.9M Award"
The National Science Foundation has awarded several UK entities $1,984,322 through its EFRI (Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation) program. Project investigators include: Rodney Andrews, Mark Crocker, Samuel Morton (CAER), Mark Meier (Chemistry), Seth DeBolt (Horticulture), and Mike Montross (Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering). Titled "Lignin Deconstruction for the Production of Liquid Fuels," the project's goals are to investigate the high capacity processes required for the production of hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass. Compared to petroleum, ethanol is of limited use in chemical manufacturing and has lower energy density. The development of biological pathways for the conversion of cellulosic biomass to fuels will result in the generation of huge quantities of lignin residues.
Lignin is also of interest as a feedstock due to its being more energy-dense than cellulose or hemicellulose. If efficient methods can be found for lignin deconstruction, a new paradigm would be created, that of biofuels production from engineered lignin-rich plants. Today's existing pyrolysis methods for lignin deconstruction require high temperatures, making the overall energy balance less favorable. This work will contribute to the national effort to design efficient, cost-effective processes for our use of an abundant biomass source.
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