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US offers $30M for high-risk biofuel research

US Department of Energy moving beyond Ethanol development

By Layer 8 on Wed, 12/15/10 - 12:53pm.

This one sounds a bit like really wishful thinking.  The US Department of Energy today announced $30 million for research projects that would develop advanced biofuels that could replace gasoline or diesel without requiring special upgrades or changes to the vehicle or fueling infrastructure.

 The $30 million would be spent over the next four years to support as many as five "traditionally high-risk biofuels projects," such as converting biomass into biofuels and bioproducts to be eventually used for hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals.

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From the DOE: " The projects will focus on optimizing and integrating process steps that convert biomass into biofuels and bioproducts that will eventually be used to support hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals.  These process improvements could include pretreatment methods that alter the biomass to improve the yield of sugars in subsequent process steps, less costly and more efficient enzymes that produce sugars, and fermentation organisms and catalysts that convert the sugars into fuel and chemical intermediates."

According to the DOE, government investment in developing Ethanol-based fuel alternatives has been critical to developing those fuels. What the DOE hopes to do now is expand beyond Ethanol development.  

Going beyond Ethanol has been a DOE theme of late.  Just this month the DOE awarded a massive amount of its world-class supercomputing time to 57 research projects looking at everything from biofuels and climate change to nuclear power and lithium air batteries.  In Sept., the DOE announced $9.6 million for what it called transformational energy research projects. And in June the DOE said it would invest $24 million in three research groups to tackle the challenges of bringing algae-based biofuels to market.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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