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New facility advances biofuels

May 22, 2013, Ill. – A proposed new facility at the University of Illinois will take biofuel processing to the next level.


May 22, 2013
By ACES

Illinois' Capital
Development Board has designated about $20 million to build the Integrated
Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL) in the College of Agricultural,
Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at Illinois.

An outgrowth of the Center
for BioEnergy Research (CABER), IBRL "will complete the value-chain link
between research and commercial viability for advanced biofuels," said Hans
Blaschek, professor emeritus in the Department of Food Science and Human
Nutrition and director of CABER.

Vijay Singh, a professor in
the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in ACES, said, "IBRL
provides a niche between the bench scale study, which can ferment approximately
a kilogram of corn, and the large scale, such as the National Corn-to-Ethanol
Research Center at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. They process
200 bushels a day. There was obviously a need for something in between."

Examples of recent biofuels
research in ACES include two studies on converting cellulosic biomass into
biofuels.

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"One study addressed the
effect of enzymatic hydrolysis on pre-treatment of Miscanthus, and a second analyzed the influence of feedstock
particle size on lignocellulose conversion," said Singh. "In other words, how
fine do we have to grind this material in order to maximize ethanol yields?"

A third study was a
collaborative effort between the National Center for Agricultural Utilization
Research, USDA, and Illinois. This study addressed the effects of mycotoxins on
ethanol production.

"Because of the drought in
the summer of 2012, there were concerns about mycotoxins in corn, and what
effect that would have on ethanol production in an ethanol plant," Singh noted.
"We showed that one of the mycotoxins, Diplodia ear rot, has a negligible
effect. If you get this corn at your ethanol plant and it has a level of this
particular fungus, it's not going to affect your ethanol yields." 

The effect of this fungus
was only observed on the oil content in distillers dried grains with solubles.

In anticipation of the new
facility, Singh is working to develop industry relationships and provide
connectivity between industry and other institutions and units interested in
pilot-scale proof-of-concept activities.

"We are offering an annual
industrial affiliate membership," said Singh. "Which includes access to the
pilot plant, faculty expertise, working with master's students (via
internships), bioenergy class presentations, one online class, and an
invitation to the annual industrial members' networking conference."


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