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From field to biorefinery: Computer model optimizes biofuel operations
Date:1/17/2012

CHAMPAIGN, lll. Research into biofuel crops such as switchgrass and Miscanthus has focused mainly on how to grow these crops and convert them into fuels. But many steps lead from the farm to the biorefinery, and each could help or hinder the growth of this new industry. A new computer model developed at the University of Illinois can simplify this transition, researchers say. The model can run millions of simulations, optimizing operations to bring down costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or achieve other goals.

"Biomass from the field will not just show up magically at the biorefinery," said agricultural and biological engineering professor and department head K.C. Ting, who developed the model with Energy Biosciences Institute research professor Yogendra Shastri and agricultural and biological engineering professors Alan Hansen and Luis Rodriguez. "You have to harvest, transport, store and deliver," he said. The institute, funded by BP, supported the research. Ting, Hansen and Rodriguez are affiliates of the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois.

Shastri, who built the model, said the goal was to "consider all these operations together and find out the best system, not just the best harvester or the best method of storage, but a system that works together to achieve a given goal."

In this case, the goal was to minimize the cost of the entire system, he said.

The model, named BioFeed, is described in papers in the journals Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining; Biologica
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Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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