The U.S. Department of Energy recently awarded SunEthanol a $100,000 research grant to help America develop clean transportation fuels from a variety of non-food feedstocks, including corn stover, bagasse, switchgrass, sorghum, softwood (pine), and high lignin poplar. This is the third DOE grant that SunEthanol has been awarded in the past year.
This newest DOE grant will support SunEthanol as it pioneers a novel process that simplifies the production of clean ethanol fuel from two complex steps, hydrolysis and fermentation, into one simple step. The company's patented process, known as Complete Cellulose Conversion or "C3," will be cheaper than the current process that uses enzymes to convert corn starch to fuel. Relying on a unique microbe discovered in Massachusetts, the Q MicrobeTM, SunEthanol's C3 process has the potential to be the ultimate low-cost configuration for cellulosic ethanol technology.
This grant is a nine-month, Phase I "SBIR/STTR" (Small Business Innovation Research) project. It consists of five tasks planned as a collaborative effort between three organizations: SunEthanol, Texas A&M University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass).
The science team consists of researchers from all three organizations. Dr. John Kilbane, Senior Scientist of SunEthanol, is the Principal Investigator. He has extensive experience in strain and bioprocess development, particularly in the area of fuels production. Dr. Mark Holtzapple of Texas A&M is a national authority in the production of pretreated biomass, particularly using oxidative lime. Dr. Jeffrey Blanchard of UMass Amherst is an expert in the use of DNA microarrays for transcriptional analyses.