Unlocking the potential of biomass: DOE announces new projects

switchgrass with blue sky, photo

biomass teaser.jpgThe Department of Energy’s Agile BioFoundry announced October 2 the commencement of seven projects with industry partners and a University of Georgia microbiology lab under the recent $5M Directed Funding Opportunity:

The Agile BioFoundry is focused on developing, deploying and uniting tools, technologies, software, and instrumentation across the National Laboratory system for the robust and predictive engineering of biology for the production of biofuels and renewable chemicals from domestic, non-food lignocellulosic biomass. Central to this effort is developing databases and machine learning methods to enable better, automated design of bioprocesses with predictable performance and scaling. 

Working with industry and other external stakeholders to identify and address critical biomanufacturing challenges is central to the success of the Agile BioFoundry.

Research teams, led by professor of microbiology Ellen Neidle at UGA, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are collaborating to generate new enzymes in order to bio-manufacture important chemicals. This project builds on a powerful new technique developed at UGA that harnesses the unique genetic system of a soil bacterium. The long term goal is to improve the economic feasibility of converting renewable biomass resources (lignocellulosic material) to commercially needed products such as fuels and chemicals.

"This collaboration provides exciting research and educational opportunities," Neidle said. "The national laboratories give us access to resources, such as bioprocessed lignin streams, as well as equipment and expertise that complements what is available at UGA. Furthermore, it allows doctoral students in my group to work on cutting-edge projects with real world applications. The research trains students for different types of future career options ranging from academics to industry.”

One of the most intractable challenges of biomass conversion has long been the efficient conversion of lignocellulosic materials for carbon neutral energy and chemical production. Integrating academic research to enhance industrial production requires this level of partnerships to create leverage across sectors. Congratulations to the UGA team as they move closer to some of the most demanding biomass conversion challenges to unlock vast economic potential.

Image: Switchgrass, a common renewable biomass crop.