An engineering professor will head new research into cellulosic biofuel production.
Dartmouth Engineering Professor Daniel Olson will lead a team funded by a $1.2 million (€1.4 million), three-year grant from the US Department of Energy (DoE) to look into the next-generation biofuels and chemicals.
The researchers' goal is to use C. thermocellum and to better understand similar organisms and their ability to be used as a platform for production of fuels and chemicals.
"Biofuels made from cellulose are one of the few options available for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the heavy-duty transportation sector, which includes long-haul trucking, ocean shipping, and aviation. Bacteria that natively consume cellulose are good candidates for producing cellulosic biofuels, but in many cases, their metabolism is poorly understood, said Olson.
The grant, "Cell-free systems biology of an atypical glycolytic pathway”, will also involve researchers from Pennsylvania State University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Wisconsin.
"To better understand metabolism in these organisms, we are combining a relatively old-fashioned technique of enzyme assays with robotics, modern computer modeling, and advanced analytical chemistry techniques," added Olson.
"Biofuels that can power planes and ships, and bioproducts made from renewable resources will play a critical role in decarbonising our economy —and today's awardees will help us understand, predict, and even design them at the cellular level, so that we can unlock their full potential," said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
"Led by the unparalleled scientific capabilities at DoE's National Labs and America's world-leading research universities, these projects will help us develop low-carbon products that drive economic growth while building a more sustainable world for our children and grandchildren."
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