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UMBI Receives $575K Subcontract to Develop More Efficient Methods for Cellulosic Biofuels Production

The University of Maryland Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) has received a $575,000, three-year subcontract award from the University of California at Berkeley to develop more efficient ways to convert lignocellulose to biofuels such as ethanol and butanol.

The subcontract is part of a collaborative research and development effort designed to improve the efficiency of biofuel production. These efforts are led by three Principal Investigators, including Dr. Frank T. Robb of UMBI’s Center of Marine Biotechnology, and Dr. Douglas S. Clark and Dr. Harvey W. Blanch of the Chemical Engineering Department at Berkeley.

Dr. Robb will lead a research program designed to improve the efficiency of conversion of the cellulosic biomass to biofuels. Making use of extremophile microorganisms that thrive at very high temperatures in natural hot springs, the research team will be bio-prospecting for new enzymes that will allow the conversion to take place at high temperatures.

This has several advantages, including the suppression of other microbes that might contaminate the fermentation process, decreased energy requirements for cooling, and also greater efficiency in distillation of biofuels such as ethanol and butanol. The goal is to utilize stable, high-temperature enzymes that will increase the process efficiency, minimize contamination and facilitate the isolation of purified fuel product by evaporation.


Henry Gibson

Biofuels can only be used in limited amounts because there is not enough land area total for any kind of fuel crop that would yield enough energy to replace a large fraction of crude oil imported. The industrial use of nuclear power to transform CO2 from the air and other sources into liquid fuels is one very logical model, but only for those circumstances where electric hybrid operation is not practical. It is now possible for locomotives and large trucks to capture CO2 and deposit it at fueling stations. Ships can capture CO2 as well. Ships could even pump it a hundred feet deep to be captured under the surface.

Any organic materials that would go into landfills should be converted into fuels instead. There are plenty of uses for methane, so it may not be economic to do any other conversions. ..HG..

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