US creates three centers for research on biofuels: report

Pharma

The US Energy Department is creating three bioenergy research centers to find new ways to turn plants into fuel, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The three centers, which the department described as three start-up companies with $125 million each in capital, will be in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Madison, Wisconsin; and a site near Berkeley, California. They will involve numerous universities, national laboratories and private companies. The goal of the centers, which were to be announced Tuesday, is to bring new technologies to the market within five years.

The bioenergy centers will focus on finding naturally occurring microbes that can break down lignin, a component of plants and trees, to give access to the fuel-making material inside, cellulose. Cellulose can be converted into ethanol or other liquid fuels, like butanol and biodiesel, said Raymond L. Orbach, undersecretary for science at the Energy Department. Today, companies trying to commercialize cellulosic ethanol use heat and acids, an expensive process. The centers will also work on creating new crops that produce a type of lignin that is easier to process, Orbach said. (people.com.cn)

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