December 2017 News Blast: Bioenergy Technologies Office News and Events

BETO Monthly News Blast: December 2017 View in browser
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Bioenergy Technologies Office

December 2017 News Blast: Bioenergy Technologies Office News and Events

Dec. 14, 2017

The Competition is Heating Up: Wood Stove Design Challenge Announces Initial Round of Finalists

Wood Stove Design ChallengeThe U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the Alliance for Green Heat (AGH) are proud to announce the initial round of finalists for the 2018 Wood Stove Design Challenge! In this competition, teams from around the world are competing to design an integrated thermoelectric generator and woodstove that is optimized for both home heat and electrical power. Thermoelectric generators—the energy source used in NASA’s Cassini spacecraft—can complement residential-scale solar power and battery storage, diversifying energy sources and improving the security and reliability of Americans’ energy supply. BETO and AGH will announce additional finalists in the future, and registration for the competition is still open through January 1. Learn more and check out the current finalists.

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ANL Researchers Show Benefits of Incorporating Bioenergy Crops into Agricultural Landscapes

Shrub WillowResearchers at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) are examining innovative new agricultural landscapes that incorporate perennial bioenergy crops—like switchgrass, willow, and prairie grasses—to provide environmental benefits, such as improved nutrient management and pollinator nesting. Through a collaboration with the University of Michigan, ANL researchers found that incorporating bioenergy crops into the landscape can not only improve water quality by managing nutrients, but also potentially improve wild bee habitats. ANL’s research demonstrates that there are ways to proactively design bioenergy systems that benefit both the economy and the environment.

NREL Research Finds a “Sweet Spot” for Engineering Better Biofuel Enzymes

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are seeking to unlock the bioenergy stored in plant cell walls by learning how to engineer better enzymes. Funded by BETO, NREL’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms that cellulose-degrading enzymes (i.e., cellulase) use to break down cellulose and identifying the means to improve their performance. NREL’s work suggests that fine-tuning glycosylation—the process by which small sugars called glycans are added to the enzymes—could provide a new avenue for improving cellulase activity. This insight could enable more efficient and cost-effective biofuel and bioproducts production. Learn more about NREL’s research, which was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Less Expensive, More Sustainable Carbon Fiber Made from Biomass

Acrylonitrile ApplicationsNREL has developed a process that produces unprecedented yields of biobased acrylonitrile, which can be found in everyday items like carpets, clothes, and fabrics, as well as in plastics such as food containers, packaging materials, and even children’s toys. NREL’s groundbreaking work, which was funded by BETO and recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, offers a cost-competitive, sustainable alternative to the conventional industrial petroleum-based production method. Acrylonitrile is also the primary building block in carbon fiber composites, which are used for lightweighting applications in automotive and air transportation—that is, replacing heavier materials like steel with lightweight carbon fibers to lower costs and improve fuel efficiency. Read more about NREL’s exciting work.

BETO Launches New Feedstock-Conversion Interface Consortium

Biomass Conversion ResearchOn December 11, BETO officially launched its new Feedstock-Conversion Interface Consortium (FCIC)—a national laboratory research and development consortium dedicated to identifying and overcoming technical uncertainty in developing robust biomass supply, preprocessing, and conversion technologies. The goal of the consortium is to improve the overall operational reliability of integrated biorefineries. Through a concerted coordination of research efforts among eight national laboratories, FCIC will address the operational reliability challenges that are relevant to industry. Check out FCIC’s website to learn more.

Q&A with Bioenergy Researchers: Making Biocrude and Biofuel from Human Waste

SludgeDid you know BETO is working with national laboratories to create biofuel from resources like human waste? Wastewater treatment plants across the country treat approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. But that sewage doesn’t have to go to waste—using hydrothermal liquefaction, 30 million barrels of bio-oil could potentially be produced from sewage each year. Check out this Q&A with two Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) researchers, Corinne Drennan and Greg Kunkel, to learn how scientists are developing technology to support refining human waste into biofuels and biocrude—and what that means for the future.

Results of the Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Pilot Verification Capabilities Request for Information

The results of Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Pilot Verification Capabilities Request for Information (RFI) are now available online. From the RFI responses, BETO developed a list of facilities within the United States that act as (or are willing to act as) pilot- or process development–scale multi-user facilities for biofuels and biobased products, chemicals, and intermediates, including synthesis gas, cellulosic sugars, bio-oil, hydrogen, biogas, and methane. To view the summary of responses and learn more about the RFI, visit the Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Pilot Verification Capabilities RFI Responses web page.

Presentations from the Cell-Free Synthetic Biology and Biocatalysis Listening Day Now Online

On July 30, 2017, BETO sponsored the Cell-Free Synthetic Biology and Biocatalysis Listening Day in Denver, Colorado. The event aimed to investigate how cell-free biocatalysis and cell-free synthetic biology may serve to advance the emerging bioeconomy. To learn more about the topics discussed, view the speaker presentations.

Happy Holidays from the Bioenergy Technologies Office!

A Biomass Carol
(to the tune of “Deck the Halls”)

Deck the halls with boughs of biomass (Fa la la la la la la la la)

Gather stover, waste, or switchgrass (Fa la la la la la la la la)

Pretreatment and conversion come then (Fa la la la la la la la la)

Fuels and products for Americans (Fa la la la la la la la la)

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