The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy to develop rapid solar- thermal chemical reactor systems for the conversion of biomass material like switchgrass and algae to synthesis gas.
The three-year award was made to a team led by Professor Alan Weimer of CU-Boulder's chemical and biological engineering department. The team will use concentrated sunlight to heat biomass like grass, sorghum, corn stalks and leaves, wood waste and algae to more than 2,000 degrees F for just fractions of a second. The process will produce an intermediate "syngas" -- a mixture of carbon oxides and hydrogen -- that can be easily converted into hydrogen or liquid fuels, he said.
Weimer also is executive director of the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, or C2B2, a joint center of CU-Boulder, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and industry. Headquartered at CU-Boulder, C2B2 -- which has a goal to increase the production and use of energy from renewable resources -- was founded in March 2007 by the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a consortium involving all four institutions.
CU-Boulder will subcontract out to NREL in Golden to provide a high-flux solar furnace for the research and to CSU to study switchgrass growth and supply quantities of the tall prairie grass to CU-Boulder for conversion. The CSU collaboration will be led by CSU horticulture Professor Yaling Qian, while the NREL collaboration will be led by Carl Bingham at NREL's High Flux Solar Furnace.
"We are thrilled that USDA and DOE selected us to move forward on this effort," said Weimer. "This award supports both CU-Boulder and our partners, and is an example of the results that can be obtained through collaboration within C2B2."
Weimer said he envisions a totally renewable technology, in which a si
|Contact: Alan Weimer|
University of Colorado at Boulder