This project is supported through a DOT/SUn Grants ($1.3 m), aiming to develop sustainable systems for practical utilization of largely available bulky biomass for production of renewable energy, which will benefit both the processors and feedstock producers (farmers).
Increasing attention is focused on the utilization of cellulosic biomass for fuels and materials because cellulosic biomass is abundant and outside the human food chain. Current technologies for processing cellulosic biomass are designed for large scale facilities, requiring biomass feedstock to be transported over a long distance at considerable cost. The economic feasibility of these technologies is still a long way off. Our unique distributed biorefining concept is based on scalable technologies that can be implemented on average size farms to minimize the need to transport bulky biomass. It also provides a mechanism for farmers to receive their share of profits from the renewable energy economy. Sharing profits with farmers and the rural community is an essential element of biomass-based industry.
The specific supporting objectives of the project are (1) to develop a set of scalable technologies for converting bulky biomass to products of higher energy density on farms, (2) to develop processes to use these products or further refine products, (3) to develop models to implement a distributed biorefining approach, and (4) to assess the techno-economic feasibility of the models. The proposed research activities will be conducted by a multi-disciplinary and multi-institution team whose members are leaders in their respective areas and well equipped with state of the art research facilities.