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Use of Cellulase-containing Maize to Lower Cost of Forest Products Biofuels

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2012-00170
Agency Tracking Number: 2012-00170
Amount: $99,983.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.1
Solicitation Number: USDA-NIFA-SBIR-003497
Solicitation Year: 2012
Award Year: 2012
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): N/A
Award End Date (Contract End Date): N/A
Small Business Information
San Luis Obispo, CA -
United States
DUNS: 176532203
HUBZone Owned: Yes
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 John Howard
 (805) 756-6458
Business Contact
 Dita Resella
Title: Grants Administrator
Phone: (805) 756-6458
Research Institution

Fossilized hydrocarbon-based energy sources such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas provide a limited, non-renewable resource pool. This creates a somewhat precarious situation in today's political climate because supply disruptions are highly likely and could cripple the ability of our economy to function. This is regarded as a national security issue. Renewable plant biomass-derived energy resources as an alternative to fossil fuels make economic, environmental and political sense, and should be investigated for moving the economy toward new energy sources. Cellulosic feedstocks can be derived from either forest or agricultural products. Forest products could replace approximately 30% of the transportation fuels in the US. Forest biomass sources can come from an energy crop but they may also be derived from forest waste or by-products such as wood chips, sawdust or waste paper pulp which account for approximately half of the total forest products. These by-products can account for approximately 15 billion gallons of ethanol making a significant impact on the reduction of fossil fuel. The hurdle in the conversion of cellulosic biomass into biofuels is an ample supply of a low-cost biomass. It is the subject of this proposal to reduce the enzyme cost and exploit the advantages of using pretreated wood products to develop an integrated program that can enable cost-efficient cellulosic ethanol production. The critical enzyme source, cellulases, will be provided from a by-product of the current grain ethanol process, corn germ. Cellulases produced in the germ appear to be a particularly attractive source of enzymes that can be exploited to reduce microbial enzyme costs. These enzymes will be optimized with current commercial microbial enzymes to determine the lowest cost of enzymes. This approach will not add additional stress on the environment or require additional inputs for the crop to produce the materials necessary to make biofuels. Instead the focus is on using material already in agricultural production but underutilized or allowed to go to waste. In this way, the practice does not compete for current uses of food or fuel. This will lead to a more efficient use of our natural resources and eliminate additional inputs for agricultural products that can create additional stress on the environment.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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