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Sandia National Labs and Monsanto to Collaborate on Bioenergy and Biofuels Research

Sandia researchers Michael Sinclair (foreground) and David Haaland prepare a hyperspectral confocal microscope for measurement of a biological specimen.

Sandia National Laboratories and Monsanto Company have entered into a three-year research collaboration that is expected to play a role in both organizations’ interests in biology and bioenergy.

The arrangement is aimed at aligning Sandia’s capabilities in bioanalytical imaging and analysis with Monsanto’s research in developing new seed-based products for farmers, including corn products that may be able to produce more ethanol per bushel. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

A strategic relationship with Monsanto makes sense on many levels and will bolster our collective long-term objectives in bioenergy and biofuels.

—Terry Michalske, director of Sandia’s Biological and Energy Sciences Center

The research, which falls under a five-year umbrella cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA), will initially focus on hyperspectral fluorescence imaging and spectral analysis. Researchers from the two organizations will apply Sandia’s hyperspectral imaging and multivariate image analysis technology to aid in the study of plant tissue samples of interest to Monsanto.

Hyperspectral imaging is an advanced scanning technology that provides significantly more information on a subject of interest than other scanning technologies commercially available today, by detecting microscopic images using a continuous spectrum of light.

The research is expected to enhance current crop analytical technologies, offering an additional technological resource to support Monsanto’s product discovery engine and development pipeline. Monsanto’s crop analytics research program has recently played a role in discovering new seed-based products for farmers, including corn hybrids that offer more ethanol-output per bushel and soybean varieties that produce more nutritious oils for consumers.

Seeking out new and innovative scientific tools is an important part of how we bring forward new technologies for the farmer. This collaboration provides Monsanto with a new opportunity to further augment our existing crop analytics program, offering our researchers another way to better understand genomic profiles for seed and trait development.

—Pradip Das, Director of Crop Analytics for Monsanto

Sandia researchers in New Mexico will investigate, develop, and further advance the lab’s hyperspectral imaging and multivariate data analysis methods and capabilities for agricultural product discovery and development applications.

Michalske noted that researchers at Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility (CRF) in California could eventually benefit from the CRADA by gaining experience with agricultural samples which have bioenergy/biofuel applications and uses.

Ancillary research focusing on the photosynthetic properties of various plants and microbes, for instance, will add to the laboratory’s growing expertise in understanding the conversion of sunlight to sugars, relevant not only to the production of new fuels from biomass but also essential to the global carbon cycle and carbon sequestration.

Sandia is also planning a key role in a multi-lab/university effort to bring a Department of Energy-funded bioresearch facility to the San Francisco Bay Area. The DOE’s Office of Science issued a solicitation last week for two such facilities, with a focus on cost-effective, biologically based renewable energy sources to reduce US dependence on fossil fuels. (Earlier post.)




Seems like an odd pairing, considering the present administation has cut the NREL budget 5 years in a row.


Lean diet makes fat-blunted NREL minds sharper.


I would not know about that. All I know is when W wanted to do a photo op the beginning of this year to showcase his new treehugger spin, there were not enough people left
at NREL fot photo op with...they had to make spot budget addition to hire some people back to sweeten up the story.

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