The Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, or CEBC, today received a $5.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop clean technologies that will transform living plants into everyday consumer products.
The basic ingredients for everything from “shoes, paint, the food packaging in your refrigerator and the refrigerator itself currently come from petroleum-derived chemicals,” said Bala Subramaniam, director of the CEBC.
A sustainable substitute for petroleum is the foliage harvested from fields, both wild - prairie grass - and cultivated - corn stalks.
CEBC is partnering with agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland to develop clean and affordable technologies to process the grasses and after-harvest throwaways to make chemical building blocks for consumer goods. This team was one of eight selected by the USDA from a pool of roughly 300 applications.
This major federally-sponsored research project is getting a boost in the form of $1.4 million in cost-sharing funds from ADM and the University of Kansas, bringing the total value for the four year project to nearly $7 million.
“Technologies for producing the bio-based chemicals have perhaps the biggest potential for driving rural economic development in Kansas,” Subramaniam said. Since agricultural materials are bulky and costly to transport, the manufacturing facilities, dubbed biorefineries, will need to be located in rural areas near the harvesting source.
Kansas already has 15 operating biorefineries, primarily for making ethanol and biodiesel. With the nation’s 4th largest supply of plant material, a new bio-based chemicals industry represents a tremendous economic opportunity for the State and could create thousands of jobs all along the supply chain – from farmers to process engineers, marketers to business managers and delivery drivers.
“ADM is excited to partner with Dr. Subramaniam and the University of Kansas CEBC team on this project,” said Todd Werpy, vice president of research for ADM. “By combining our industrial acumen with CEBC’s reaction engineering expertise, we can advance the development of bio-based chemical technologies that can serve as replacements for petroleum-based chemicals.”
Researchers at the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis partner with industry experts to create clean technologies for making chemicals and fuels. With investments of more than $26 million, CEBC is accelerating the discovery of manufacturing processes that will meet society’s growing needs while protecting the environment and human health.
--by Claudia Bode
Transcript of USDA-DOE News Release