Financial assistance totaling nearly $8 million will be awarded over the next three years to encourage the U.S. biobased products industry to use crops, trees and residues to make plastics, paints and adhesives. Heat transfer technologies may play a key role in the development of biobased products. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Bill Richardson announced the funding, which will support six research and development partnerships as well as an education initiative for encouraging multidisciplinary research and teaching programs.
According to Richardson, "The Energy Department strongly supports the development of reliable, environmentally friendly raw material sources for manufacturing industrial chemicals and products. By working with universities and private companies, we hope to foster the development of a new biobased products industry."
The research and development projects selected address barriers identified by the industry to processing or utilizing plant materials. For example, Eastman Chemical, Kingsport, TN, is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO, to improve the separation of plant material to manufacture chemical grade cellulose, adhesives and other products. In another project, Pittsburg State University in Kansas and B.F. Goodrich Co., Charlotte, NC, propose converting vegetable oils such as oils from soybeans into functional oils to be used for high performance plastics.
The department's education initiative, designed to stimulate out-of-the-box training methods, will equip graduates with the tools needed to tackle the complex needs of the emerging biobased industry. Universities and colleges were encouraged to design comprehensive, multidisciplinary academic and research programs with industry participation. Grants will cover the costs for a new cross-cutting academic program as well as stipends for graduate students.
For more information on the awards and the department's efforts to develop biobased products, visit www.oit.doe.gov.