Cornell University focused on biofuel production
by Alan Harten
March 14, 2008
A disused agricultural machinery and engineering laboratory located at Cornell is in the process of being gutted to be transformed into the very latest in state-of-the-art Biofuels Research Laboratory.
The laboratory will be used in the conversion of wood-based biomass and perennial grasses into viable cellulosic ethanol. The Project has been awarded a grant of $10 million of which $6 million is being invested into the lab.
Cornell University professor, of biological and environmental engineering Larry Walker was given the grant by Empire State Development Corp and it’s to include the very latest in biotechnology equipment.
Mike Walter, chairman of the Department of Biological And Environmental Engineering stated, “Biofuels is the emerging program for our department, if not for the whole university,”
By the end of this year, the Department is planning to offer masters degrees for their engineering program that will be heavily focused on biofuels. Worldwide demand for skilled biofuel engineers way outstrips people with the relevant qualifications.
The new laboratory building will encompass five separate labs, all fully equipped to specialise in various aspects of biofuel research. There will be two unique growth chambers, focusing on different types of vegetation.
The emphasis of the laboratories will be to overcome biological chemical and physical problems involved in separating sugars from vegetation such as biomass sorghum and switch grass. As well as wood-based biomass in a concerted effort to produce viable fuels in the form of hydrogen, butanol and ethanol.
The laboratory as been designed so that vegetation and other materials will enter a one end of the building for pretreatment fermentation and bioconversion. The latest in analytical systems will make it easier for researchers to study the fundamental molecular mechanisms of the plants.
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