Matching funds may help develop alternative fuels

Up to $19 million in matching funds will go to a science consortium for research leading to an innovative bio-refinery – to produce ethanol fuel and value-added chemicals from renewable resources such as corn.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the grant to a consortium that includes DuPont, Diversa Corp., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Michigan State University and Deere & Co.

Selected from nearly 200 proposals submitted to the Department of Energy, the Integrated Corn-Based Bioproducts Refinery project is designed to demonstrate the feasibility and practicality of alternative energy and renewable resource technology. The project would produce sugars from corn and corn biomass, and use them in a fermentation process to produce ethanol fuel and value-added chemicals. One of those chemicals is 1,3 propanediol (PDO), the key building block for DuPont Sorona – DuPont’s newest polymer platform.

While PDO used in Sorona manufacturing is currently made using a petrochemical process, DuPont has developed an innovative method to produce the chemical using a corn-based fermentation process. DuPont plans to transition to the new bio-based process for Sorona when the process is commercialized. The bio-refinery project would incorporate a similar bio-based process.

"As we enter our third century, DuPont has a rich tradition of partnering with governments to enhance the quality of life through science," said Thomas Connelly, DuPont chief science and technology officer. "We are pleased the U.S. Department of Energy supports this initiative and recognizes that bio-science offers feasible solutions to satisfy our evolving energy needs in ways that reduce our environmental footprint. The scarcity and environmental impact of non-renewable resources amplifies the need to develop sustainable science-based solutions."

As part of the science-based consortium, DuPont is contributing expertise in applied chemistry, biotechnology, chemical engineering and project management. Diversa Corp. brings its proprietary genomic technologies for the rapid discovery, development and optimization of novel proteins and microorganisms. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is known for its expertise in biomass conversion. Professor Bruce Dale, a biomass expert from Michigan State University, will address life cycle analysis. Deere & Co. offers expertise in agronomic systems analysis and material processing.