Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota and Argonne National Laboratory will explore ways to produce renewable plastic precursors and other substances from biomass with a recently announced $3.3 million grant from the United States Department of Energy.
Part of a $13.4 million push by the Department of Energy to support the development of advanced biofuels and bioproducts, the grant plays to the strengths of a UW-Madison research community that already balances basic science with a focus on the processes needed to develop a diverse and economically viable suite of bio-derived chemicals.
"We're trying to make very high-value commodity chemicals from biomass that can be used to make different kinds of plastics and plasticizers," says George W. Huber, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison. "So many people have been focusing on fuels, which are a pretty low-value product - $600 or $700 per ton - but we're going to be making products that are worth more than $5,000 per ton."
Joining Huber on the UW–Madison portion of the grant are Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering James A. Dumesic; chemical and biological engineering Professor Christos Maravelias; chemical and biological engineering research Professor Bill Banholzer; and chemistry Associate Professor Ive Hermans. This team of researchers, who also are affiliated with the Wisconsin Energy Institute, bring to the project combined expertise in biomass conversion, process design, techo-economic modeling of biochemical and biofuels production, and catalysis.