(284b) Beyond Ethanol: Advanced Biofuels R&D At the Joint Bioenergy Institute
Beyond Ethanol: Advanced Biofuels R&D at the Joint BioEnergy Institute
Blake Simmons, Vice-President, Deconstruction Division
Today, carbon-rich fossil fuels, primarily oil, coal and natural gas, provide 85% of the energy consumed in the United States. Fossil fuel use increases CO2 emissions, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases and raising the risk of global warming. The high energy content of liquid hydrocarbon fuels makes them the preferred energy source for all modes of transportation. In the US alone, transportation consumes around 13.8 million barrels of oil per day and generates over 0.5 gigatons of carbon per year. This has spurred intense research into alternative, non-fossil energy sources. The DOE-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is a partnership between seven leading research institutions (Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Sandia Labs, Lawrence Livermore Lab, Pacific Northwest Lab, UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, and the Carnegie Institute for Science) that is focused on the production of infrastructure compatible biofuels derived from non-food lignocellulosic biomass. Biomass is a renewable resource that is potentially carbon-neutral. Plant-derived biomass contains cellulose, which is more difficult to convert to sugars. The development of cost-effective and energy-efficient processes to transform cellulose and hemicellulose in biomass into fuels is hampered by significant roadblocks, including the lack of specifically developed energy crops, the difficulty in separating biomass components, low activity of enzymes used to hydrolyze polysaccharides, and the inhibitory effect of fuels and processing byproducts on the organisms responsible for producing fuels from monomeric sugars. This presentation will highlight the research efforts underway at JBEI to overcome these obstacles, with a particular focus on the development of an ionic liquid pretreatment technology for the efficient production of monomeric sugars from biomass.