Grain News


Sun Grant Initiative Establishes Fund For Research and Development of New Bio-Based Energy Sources

Date Posted: August 13, 2007

The Sun Grant Initiative will be making available approximately $2.5 million during the next three years to area scientists and engineers developing and enhancing new sources of energy based on agricultural products.

“These much-needed research projects are made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation,” said Clarence Watson, director of the Sun Grant Initiative’s South-Central Region, headquartered at Oklahoma State University.

The Sun Grant Initiative is a national program established to create new solutions for America's energy needs and to revitalize rural communities by working with land-grant universities and their federal and state laboratory partners on research, education and extension programs.

Two types of projects are being funded: seed-grant projects allowing investigators to explore possible renewable-energy sources and processes, funded at $35,000 per year up to two years, and integrated projects that require multi-institutional participation and are funded up to $125,000 per year for up to three years.

“The intent is to develop useful new technologies and knowledge that can be brought to the marketplace,” said Ray Huhnke, OSU agricultural engineer and associate director for the Sun Grant’s South-Central Region.

Huhnke said the South-Central Region provides funding to scientists and engineers at land-grant universities in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

“We use a competitive grants process,” Huhnke said.

“Seventy-six projects from across the region were proposed.

"The proposals were reviewed for technical merit and regional impact by experts representing a wide variety of career disciplines.”

Seventeen projects were selected based on available funds.

OSU and Brigham Young University scientists will be studying the effects of syngas sources on ethanol production via fermentation.

Researchers at OSU, Texas A&M University, Kansas State University and New Mexico State University will be evaluating sweet sorghum hybrids as a bioenergy feedstock.

Scientists at Texas A&M University and KSU will be developing designer sorghums to optimize the grain for bio-ethanol conversion.

Texas A&M University and Louisiana State University researchers will be developing a skid-mounted gasification system for on-site heat, fuel and power production.

Scientists at Texas A&M University and the University of Arkansas will be evaluating the energy and cost advantages of modules for packaging and transporting biomass energy crops.

Researchers at Texas A&M University, Tarleton State University and Angelo State University will be evaluating the nutritional and feeding value of ethanol byproducts for animal production.

Scientists at OSU, KSU, the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M University will be breeding and testing new switchgrass cultivars for increased biomass production in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Kansas.

OSU scientists will be optimizing a new downdraft gasification system for synthesis gas production from low-bulk density biomass materials.

KSU researchers will be studying biodiesel feedstock development for the southern Great Plains, saline extractive distillation for ethanol separation and ways to break the cost barrier for bio-ethanol.

KSU scientists also will be examining the viability of sorghum stover and brown midrib forage sorghum for ethanol production, as well as developing a multifunctional frequency-response permittivity sensor for biodiesel concentration measurement and impurity detection.

Scientists at the University of Arkansas will examine nanoparticle systems for delivery of biological antimicrobial compounds to limit microbial contamination in industrial yeast fermentation.

Texas A&M University researchers will be studying the use of animal waste in coal-fired plants, a biotechnology platform for biomass bioconversion.

LSU scientists will be developing advanced technologies for biodiesel production.

Watson, who serves as associate director of the statewide Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system in addition to his Sun Grant Initiative duties, said many more proposals were worthy of funding.

“We’re optimistic that the Sun Grant Initiative will continue to grow, enabling us to fund additional projects in the coming years,” Watson said.

For more information, call Donald Stotts at 405-744-4079.

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