Science Market Update

Minnesota Researchers Produce Biofuel From Agricultural Waste

Posted by Sam Asher on Thu, Feb 11, 2016

We’ve seen life science researchers, like Professor Wyman of UC Riverside and Professor Reguera of Michigan State University, master the production of biofuels from biomass sources, such as corn and sugarcane. However, a controversy is brewing around such practices. Critics worry that utilizing these organic materials will substantially detract from the global food supply. Here to answer those concerns is a new study from the University of Minnesota that instead uses agricultural waste as its biomass.

21395.pngWhen faced with this criticism of existing biofuel production methods, Professor Zhang thought about our friends in nature, fungi and bacteria. Both organisms degrade agricultural “waste” (like orange peels and corn stover, for example) with as much gusto as foodstuffs like sugarcane. By mimicking the pathways that these organisms use, Zhang has developed a new method for producing biofuels. This process boasts a seventy percent higher yield in production per pound over existing methods. Perhaps most excitingly, his results aren’t limited to fuel.

“We found that this new platform could be used to convert agricultural waste to chemicals that can be used for many other products ranging from chicken feed to flavor enhancers in food,” said Zhang, who is an assistant professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering.

Zhang is especially excited to revolutionize the world of spandex, where one billion pounds of spandex are produced from pure biomass every year. If we can switch to using agricultural waste for this process instead of traditional sources of biomass, this should spare a substantial amount of food resources. 

Zhang’s research was primarily funded by the National Science Foundation’s Center for Sustainable Polymers, based at the University of Minnesota. For more information about grants and funding for UMN, read our free University of Minnesota Funding Statistics Report accessible via the link below.

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Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. hosts two of our BioResearch Product Faire™ events in the Minnesota area. We will be offering our next BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities on May 5th, 2016. This event is held directly on the thriving University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. Biotechnology Calendar is a full service event marketing and planning company producing on-campus, life science research trade shows nationwide for the past twenty years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the finest research campuses across the country. To attend one of these shows, have a look at our 2016 schedule.

Tags: University of Minnesota, Minnesota, BioResearch Product Faire Event, UMinn, Twin Cities, 2016

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