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NSF Awards $510K to NDSU and Clarkson Researchers to Explore Use of Nanostructured Enzyme Capsules for Hydrolysis of Biomass for Fuels

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $510,335 to a collaboration between North Dakota State University and Clarkson University researchers professors for a research project to improve conversion and reduce costs of making fuels from cellulosic biomass.

The goal of the project—“pH-Responsive Capsules for Enhanced Delivery and Recovery of Cellulases for Biomass Hydrolysis”—is to enhance conversion of cellulosic biomass into fermentable glucose to convert into ethanol or other chemicals or fuels. Their work aims at improving efficacy and reducing costs of cellulase enzymes needed for converting biomass to soluble sugars.

Andriy Voronov, NDSU assistant professor in the Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials, and Scott Pryor, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, will receive $309,357. Sergiy Minko, chaired professor of chemistry at Clarkson University, Potsdam, N.Y., was awarded $200,978.

Enzymatic hydrolysis of plant cell wall structural carbohydrates into soluble and fermentable sugars has been technically achievable for decades. Despite significant advances in the past five years, the economical production and use of cellulase enzymes for biomass hydrolysis remain key hurdles, whether the targeted end product is hydrocarbons or economical cellulosic ethanol.

The key to conquering these obstacles according to the collaborating PIs Voronov and Pryor rests in placing the enzymes in nanostructured capsules. These hybrid organic-inorganic microcapsules are loaded with a cocktail of cellulase enzymes for the conversion of cellulose into fermentable glucose.

The capsules protect the enzymes and preserve their activity, allow for a simple reuse/recovery process for the enzymes, and provide an opportunity to regulate enzymatic reactions using external signals, such as pH. This enzyme recovery and reuse, facilitated through the encapsulation process and magnetic separation, are expected to have significant impacts on processing costs to produce biomass-derived sugars.

The PIs plan to create a website as a means of sharing data and plans between the research groups at the two universities, and to allow public access to follow aspects of the project.



This really IS an important method. I guess no one read it or don't care, but I find it useful. Perhaps everyone thinks that we will just jump to the EV paradise and everything will be fine.

I have yet to see an era in time when we just all wake up one morning and everything has changed for the better. No need to bother with any of those pesky little details of what we do between now and then.



...I guess no one read it or don't care, ...

You're right. It's important. There is no such a thing as an EV paradise. Primary energy will still be needed to move those EVs, and is a big problem in itself.

Some battery attributes as cost, and especially energy density may never reach desired levels. Liquid fuels might still be highly valuable despite advancing the electrification agenda wherever it suits.

The concept of using plants as means to fix suns energy and atmospheric CO2 is old. Use for food and building materials is obvious and old. The modern necessity of using plants for energy has been renewed after the coal and the oil ages. Most of the chemicals and materials derived from oil could be derived from biomass.

There is this new concept of Bio-refining that is being developed, and has many possible different pathways and intermediates. Nobody really knows the best options as most processes are new, and best options emerge from a systems approach, and as such depends on the rest of the "biorefining ecology".

There is and interesting paper from 2010 on the "World Economic Forum" on the subject.

Report Predicts Biorefineries Will Offer a Solution to Significantly Reducing CO2 Emissions and Creating Economic Growth

Governments are investing in reducing uncertainty, mostly with pre-competitive research, so that private enterprise will follow.

I hope we'll see many interesting results in the next couple of years.


One more link:

On June 29 at BIO's World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, Novozymes CEO Steen Riisgaard released a report from the World Economic Forum on The Future of Industrial Biorefineries. The report says that a biorefinery value chain could create revenue for agricultural inputs ($15 billion US), for biomass production ($89 billion), for biomass trading ($30 billion), for biorefining inputs ($10 billion), for biorefining fuels ($80 billion), for bioplastics ($6 billion) and for biomass power and heat ($65 billion) by 2030.

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