Cargill and Ashland are going to work together to take the glycerine from biodiesel production in Europe to make propylene glycol.
DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol program is a consortium effort involving other companies, government laboratories, and academia. A wide variety of chemical and biological technologies is being looked at to convert mass into concentrated bio oil. According to Henry Bryndza, DuPont representatives think that the variation in biomass feedstocks is going to require an integration of sciences and multiple technologies.
An integrated corn biorefinery project has DuPont partnering with Michigan State University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Vernium Corp. The project is funded by the Department of Energy using a 50/50 cost-share approach, where companies contribute 50 percent of the funding. Pioneer, a DuPont-owned seed company, and John Deere work on feedstock harvest and transport. Michigan State is working on a life-cycle assessment of farming practices to understand the sustainability of feeding corn stover into the process. DuPont and Verenium are working on developing new enzymes for the hydrolysis of corn stover to fermentable sugars. NREL has developed several technologies for pretreatment with ethanologenic fermentation organisms.
Bryndza thinks the integration of multiple sciences and technologies is necessary. He said that it takes more than biology; chemistry technologies are needed as well as mechanical technologies. Bryndza also believes integration is important in finding the best solution. He thinks that if scientists approach energy problems from either a biological perspective or a chemical perspective, it will not work economically.
During the “Fundamental Aspects” discussion (Chapter 3) Marcetta Darensbourg of Texas A&M University said that her team’s work could not be done without the help of protein crystallographers. She said that there needs to be support for chemists, biologists, and computational chemists.
Sharon Haynie of DuPont said that it is important not to forget the large infrastructure necessary to reach bioinspired chemistry for energy goals, including analytical, computational, and engineering components. Haynie believes that an integrative approach is necessary to reach such goals, and that it is important to acknowledge the roles of allies in various scientific and engineering fields.
Mark Emptage of DuPont talked about how critical integration is when transferring biomass on the farm to fuels in automobiles. He said that no single company has all the necessary technologies, so it is important to work together.
During the discussion after the “Robust Implementation” session (Chapter 4), Alex Harris of Brookhaven National Laboratory discussed integrating both ideas and materials. He believes inorganic concepts need to be integrated with life processes to make energy-producing or conversion schemes work. Harris referred to examples in the presentations that described different approaches of life systems compared with engineered systems in terms of how a charge is transported from one place to another and whether it is stored as chemical energy or transported as charger carriers. He asked, “Are we going to learn from life systems’ basic principles of thermodynamics and chemical processes? Is that more likely to be the productive route than to mimic what they’re actually doing?” Harris also asked about the challenges in integrating bioinspired systems with inorganic ones. G. Tayhas Palmore of Brown University explained that there needs to be an integration of both ideas and materials, and that a multidisciplinary team will help address the challenges presented.
During the discussion after the “Industry Perspectives” session (Chapter 2), Daniel Nocera of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology highlighted the need for an honest broker. He thinks that scientists can be honest brokers but asked the group to identify an organization that could be an effective, honest broker to guide scientists toward strategic investment.
During the discussion after the “Robust Implementation” session (Chapter 4), Daniel Nocera declared that academia, national labs, and industry each have their own distinct roles. He said that academics should be working on problems that nobody else wants to work on because there is no financial payback. Eric Rohlfing of the Department of Energy talked about how difficult it is for physical scientists to understand biological systems.