US to spend $40m on bioenergy research

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced it will spend $40 million (£30.9m) on advancing four Bioenergy Research Centres (BRCs). It is hoped the funding will help researchers provide the scientific […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced it will spend $40 million (£30.9m) on advancing four Bioenergy Research Centres (BRCs).

It is hoped the funding will help researchers provide the scientific breakthroughs for a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective biotechnology.

The centres, which are each led by a DOE National Laboratory or university, are designed to lay the scientific groundwork for a range of important new products and fuels derived from nonfood biomass.

They include the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University, the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, its Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois.

Three previous BRCs produced multiple breakthroughs in agricultural practices, re-engineered plant feedstocks and tweaked microbes for more effective fuel production.

The latest round of funding aims to expand into the development of bio-based chemicals – it will cover a programme of work in 2018 and could be extended for a total of five years.

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said: “The revolution of modern biology has opened up vast new opportunities for the energy industry to develop and utilise products derived from biomass as a sustainable resource.

“These centres will accelerate the development of the basic science and technological foundation needed to ensure that American industry and the American public reap the benefits of the new bio-based economy.”

Biofuels produced from waste products could make a “real impact” in cutting carbon emissions than crops.