Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biopower
UGA's bioenergy researchers are helping transform the nation's renewable and abundant biomass resources into cost-competitive, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts and biopower that are needed to meet growing energy needs. Almost 30 biobased technologies have been developed at UGA, with many licensed to the marketplace: genetically modified plants for the production of biofuels and biochemicals, methods for quantitative analysis of biomass, genetically engineered microorganisms for the production of a variety of chemicals from plants, and a process to turn woody waste biomass into a liquid fuel.
(photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson via wikipedia commons)
- UGA has the largest university contribution to the BioEnergy Science Center, or BESC, a nationwide consortium of universities, federal labs and companies that the U.S. Department of Energy has funded at a level of $250 million over a 10-year period to help make biofuels a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels.
- Researchers led by associate professor of microbiology Joy Peterson have developed a "super strain" of yeast that can efficiently ferment ethanol from pretreated pine-one of the most common species of tree in Georgia and the U.S. Their research could help biofuels replace gasoline as a transportation fuel.
- Professor Michael W.W. Adams and colleagues have found a way to transform the carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere into useful industrial products, a discovery that may lead to the creation of biofuels made directly from the carbon dioxide in the air.
- UGA engineers are exploring ways to harvest electricity directly from plants. Led by Ramaraja Ramasamy, assistant professor in UGA College of Engineering, they developed a way to interrupt plant photosynthesis so that electrons could be captured before the plant uses them to make sugars needed for growth and reproduction.
- A Center of Excellence in Renewable Energy, run jointly by UGA and University of Puerto Rico since 2011, focuses on producing biofuels from freshwater microalgae and marine macroalgae. Faculty and students have joint projects that focus on algal cultivation, biomass fractionation, conversion of algae to liquid and gaseous fuels and byproducts.
The Future of Bioenergy in the South
The American South, home not only to peanuts, corn, pecans and cotton, but also millions of acres of commercial forests, has huge biomass reserves that are among the most significant bioenergy sources in the U.S. Consequently, with the bioenergy industry eyeing the Southeast's bioenergy reserves for future development, researchers are studying its impact on the environment, as well as public opinion about the biofuel industry.
- Research by Puneet Dwivedi, assistant professor, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, has found that the wood pellets exported to Europe from the Southern United States to generate electricity are boosting European efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
- A study by researchers from UGA, University of Florida and Virginia Tech found that the rapidly expanding forest biomass energy development in the Southeast has large implications for wildlife and biodiversity. The study will provide guidance for up-front evaluation of risks and opportunities of bioenergy production.
- Researchers from the Center for Integrative Conservation Research conducted in-depth interviews with community members to understand the social and economic factors working for and against new bioenergy developments.
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