Department of Energy awards $40 million for bioenergy research

Published on July 24, 2017 by Debra Flax

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced this week that the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $40 million to the establishment of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs) that will explore and develop an innovative generation of sustainable, affordable bioproducts and bioenergy.

“The revolution of modern biology has opened up vast new opportunities for the energy industry to develop and utilize products derived from biomass as a sustainable resource,” Perry said. “These centers 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.”

The centers will be led by a DOE National Laboratory or a top research university with a main goal of directly deriving new products and fuels from nonfood biomass. While total funding for the four centers will total $40 million for FY 2018, there are plans for a total five years of funding.

Originally established by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE’s Bioenergy Research Centers program in 2007, the initial phase of the Bioenergy Research Center program created multiple fuel production breakthroughs. The three original centers — led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — helped deepen the understanding of sustainable agricultural practices, institute a major reengineering of plant feedstocks, develop new methods of deconstructing feedstocks, and reengineered microbes for more effective fuel production.

The BRCs program will continue to develop on the past research and insight of the original centers along with the addition of a fourth center led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Their work will now include the development of bio-based chemicals and other bio-based products.