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NSF Grant Boosts Promising Biofuels Research

SOURCE: Wisconsin Institute For Sustainable Technology


July 3, 2013 /3BL Media/ - Promising biofuels research at a Wisconsin biotech company and a partner university is getting a boost from a $224,967 National Science Foundation grant.

C5.6 Technologies of Middleton, Wis., and the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point won the grant to continue work on developing bacteria that will ferment sugar into isoprene, a high-energy molecule that can be used to make jet and other fuels.

Isoprene for industry now is mainly produced from petroleum sources. Sourcing it from cellulosic sugar would help meet U.S. goals for renewable energy production and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

WIST has patented a process to separate biomass, including waste from pulp and paper mills, into constituent cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. The cellulose can be converted to sugar. Most biofuels now are made from sugars derived from grains such as corn. Cellulose is more plentiful – it’s a basic structural component of plants – and its use in biofuel production would not involve a food versus fuel tradeoff.

The WIST patent protects the production of isoprene from cellulose in a biorefinery. Ongoing research is aimed at optimizing processes to move toward commercial viability. Eric Singsaas, WIST director of research, said that besides its applicability as a fuel precursor, isoprene is also a valuable industrial chemical used in the making of latex, rubber, plastics and pharmaceuticals.

“Renewably-sourced isoprene can play a central role in the future bio-economy,” Singsaas said.

Singsaas said the institute’s goal is to help a paper or pulp mill develop a biorefinery to produce isoprene and other value-added chemicals from its waste stream. That would give an economic boost to Wisconsin’s paper industry and add jobs.

The isoprene research is being funded by the National Science Foundation through its Small Business Technology Transfer Program. The program promotes innovation in the private sector by linking businesses with university researchers. Work on the project will take place at C5.6 and UW-Stevens Point laboratories. -30-

Tweet me: Promising #biofuels research WIST & C5.6 Technologies getting boost from a $224k National Science Foundation grant

Contact Info:

Ron Tschida Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology +1 (715) 346-4266

Paul Fowler Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology +1 (715) 346-3767

KEYWORDS: biofuels, Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology, national science foundation, sustainability, Energy, renewables, isoprene, Innovation, Renewably-sourced isoprene, bio-economy

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