SciTech Connect

Title: U.S, Department of Energy's Bioenergy Research Centers An Overview of the Science

U.S, Department of Energy's Bioenergy Research Centers An Overview of the Science Alternative fuels from renewable cellulosic biomass--plant stalks, trunks, stems, and leaves--are expected to significantly reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil while enhancing national energy security and decreasing the environmental impacts of energy use. Ethanol and other advanced biofuels from cellulosic biomass are renewable alternatives that could increase domestic production of transportation fuels, revitalize rural economies, and reduce carbon dioxide and pollutant emissions. According to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, 'Developing the next generation of biofuels is key to our effort to end our dependence on foreign oil and address the climate crisis while creating millions of new jobs that can't be outsourced'. In the United States, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 is an important driver for the sustainable development of renewable biofuels. As part of EISA, the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates that 36 billion gallons of biofuels are to be produced annually by 2022, of which 16 billion gallons are expected to come from cellulosic feedstocks. Although cellulosic ethanol production has been demonstrated on a pilot level, developing a cost-effective, commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel industry will require transformational science to significantly streamline current production processes. Woodchips, grasses, cornstalks, and other cellulosic biomass are widely abundant but more » more difficult to break down into sugars than corn grain--the primary source of U.S. ethanol fuel production today. Biological research is key to accelerating the deconstruction of cellulosic biomass into sugars that can be converted to biofuels. The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science continues to play a major role in inspiring, supporting, and guiding the biotechnology revolution over the past 25 years. The DOE Genomic Science Program is advancing a new generation of research focused on achieving whole-systems understanding for biology. This program is bringing together scientists in diverse fields to understand the complex biology underlying solutions to DOE missions in energy production, environmental remediation, and climate change science. New interdisciplinary research communities are emerging, as are knowledgebases and scientific and computational resources critical to advancing large-scale, genome-based biology. To focus the most advanced biotechnology-based resources on the biological challenges of biofuel production, DOE established three Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs) in September 2007. Each center is pursuing the basic research underlying a range of high-risk, high-return biological solutions for bioenergy applications. Advances resulting from the BRCs will provide the knowledge needed to develop new biobased products, methods, and tools that the emerging biofuel industry can use. The scientific rationale for these centers and for other fundamental genomic research critical to the biofuel industry was established at a DOE workshop involving members of the research community (see sidebar, Biofuel Research Plan, below). The DOE BRCs have developed automated, high-throughput analysis pipelines that will accelerate scientific discovery for biology-based biofuel research. The three centers, which were selected through a scientific peer-review process, are based in geographically diverse locations--the Southeast, the Midwest, and the West Coast--with partners across the nation. DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory leads the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) in Tennessee; the University of Wisconsin-Madison leads the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC); and DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory leads the DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in California. Each center represents a multidisciplinary partnership with expertise spanning the physical and biological sciences, including genomics, microbial and plant biology, analytical chemistry, computational biology and bioinformatics, and engineering. Institutional partners include DOE national laboratories, universities, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. « less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:962459
Report Number(s):DOE/SC-0116
TRN: US200916%%263
Resource Type:Technical Report
Data Type:
Research Org:DOESC (USDOE Office of Science (SC) (United States))
Sponsoring Org:USDOE; Office of Biological and Environmental Research
Country of Publication:United States