Biofuels Research Center Puts Purdue in National Eye

Author: Elizabeth Gardner
The U.S. Department of Energy will fund a $20 million effort at Purdue to create an Energy Frontier Research Center to advance work in biofuels.

The Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, will investigate methods to bypass the currently used processes involving biological fermentation, reducing the need for large and expensive biorefineries and expanding the range of biofuels beyond ethanol.

A multidisciplinary team will study ways to convert plant lignocellulosic biomass, the bulk of the plant, directly to biofuels and other bio-based products through new chemical catalysts and thermal treatments instead of oil. The team aims to produce fuels that closely resemble gasoline in terms of molecular makeup and energy density. Researchers include chemical engineering faculty members Rakesh Agrawal, Nick Delgass, Fabio Ribeiro and Kendall Thomson, as well as faculty from biological sciences and chemistry.

“Purdue researchers have been working on different aspects of energy biosciences for decades, building the foundation for the future,” said Maureen McCann, associate professor of biological sciences and project leader. “This center will bring together the mass of talented work the University has accrued and apply it to the next step toward a viable alternative energy source to finite and foreign oil.”