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Clemson University and the University of Queensland form biofuels research partnership

CLEMSON, S.C. Two of the world's leading research universities have entered into a memorandum of understanding to exchange research and create a framework for a biofuels development program.

Clemson University and The University of Queensland, Australia, jointly will pursue means of public and private funding to advance biofuel research and commercialization, and further development and commercialization in ethanol and biodiesel production.

The collaboration will foster strategies to support energy independence, economic development, fuel production and agricultural revenues in South Carolina and Queensland.

The memorandum of understanding was signed Sunday at the Bio International Convention in Washington.

Peter D. Beattie, special adviser for economic policy and development for Clemson University and former premier of the state of Queensland, who played a central role forming the collaboration, said biofuels will play an increasing role in the world's energy use.

"This partnership between Clemson University and The University of Queensland puts both universities at the forefront of future energy research," he said.

Universities worldwide are investigating novel methods to advance energy technologies into commercial markets. Clemson and The University of Queensland will collaborate on biofuels research and development, technology transfer, training and commercialization projects.

The biofuel cellulosic energy technologies under development in laboratories require private partners in ethanol and biodiesel markets. Clemson University, in conjunction with the Savannah River National Laboratory, has completed bench-scale processes to convert switchgrass and sweet sorghum to ethanol, with research continuing in coastal loblolly pine.

Karl Kelly, director of commercialization and technology incubation at Clemson University, said both universities have impressive track records in biofuels research, and this collaboration will aid process development and help speed these processes to market.

"The University of Queensland is one of Australia's premier learning and research institutions," Kelly said. "Together, we will push the boundaries of biofuels development with alternative energy concepts that benefit South Carolina and Queensland."

The research scope includes:

  • Switchgrass and sweet sorghum to ethanol: Clemson will provide comprehensive access to information developed for conversion of sugar cane bagasse (the fibrous byproduct of sugar extraction) to ethanol.
  • Ethanol pilot-scale demonstration funding: Clemson and Queensland will develop and pilot a sugar cane-to-ethanol process in Queensland using residual sugar cane bagasse.
  • Cellulosic monomer conversion to biodiesel technology: The universities will develop algal and cellulosic technologies for the production of biodiesel. This process, in early developmental phases, has the potential to convert cellulose from multiple feedstock sources to a ready biodiesel for military, mining, industrial and personal transportation applications.

The universities jointly will pursue private and federal funding sources in the U.S. and Australia to develop pilot processing plants, and for design, construction, technology transfer and operation of a cellulosic biofuels program.

Paul Greenfield, vice chancellor of The University of Queensland, said the need for alternative energy sources, such as biofuels, has become an essential part of an environmentally suitable future.

"The development of clean fuels for the future is one of the most urgent challenges facing society due to the need to address climate change and secure fuel supplies," Greenfield said.

From an economic development standpoint, the partnership will bring rich rewards, said John Kelly, Clemson University's vice president for economic development.

"Clemson and Queensland understand the importance of collaboration, both within an academic setting and in a corporate environment," Kelly said. "This exchange of information and ideas, coupled with a joint approach to external funding opportunities, will be of enormous benefit to both states."


Contact: Karl Kelly
Clemson University

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