Research to Drive Innovation
The technological challenges of converting biomass into biofuel are the focus of many research centers across the United States. The US Department of Energy (DOE) funds many of the centers that develop the technologies needed to produce renewable transportation fuels.
The Department of Energy supports bioenergy research by focusing on the challenges of commercial cellulosic biofuel production. The research focuses on improving the underlying mechanisms of biofuel production for commercial applications. Bioenergy research centers are developing feedstocks, enzymes, and microbes for use in biofuel production.
At the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), located at the Oakridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, researchers are studying the breakdown of cellulosic biomass into sugars. They are looking at how to more easily deconstruct cell walls and modify plant materials using biocatalysts. AT BESC researchers are also identifying proteins in poplars to help break down woody biomass.
The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center is exploring diverse ways to convert biomass into biofuels by improving plant feedstocks and processing new and improved catalysts. Researchers are also investigating how to alter lignin in poplars to improve the efficiency of pretreatment.
The Joint BioEnergy Institute works on engineering microbes and enzymes to turn cellulosic biomass into liquid transportation fuels. The researchers develop new crops for bioenergy, enhance the breakdown of biomass, explore synthetic biology to produce new biofuels, and use technology to advance biofuel research.
National Bioenergy Center
The National Bioenergy Center is composed of five national laboratories led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The center’s research focuses on replacing petroleum with cost-effective biofuels. Each laboratory within the center specializes in a different aspect of the process.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Biorefinery research and development
Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Feedstock development
Idaho National Laboratory: Biomass harvesting technology
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Syngas, catalysis, and bioproducts
Argonne National Laboratory: Reaction engineering and separations