Purdue joins Midwest effort to create biobased products

June 14, 2000

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- As this summer's gasoline prices soar skyward, Purdue University has joined with five other institutions to help the United States free itself from dependence on petroleum-based products.

The Midwest Consortium for Sustainable Biobased Products and Bioenergy was created to combine research efforts in the development of new "green," environmentally friendly and renewable chemical products.

"The Midwest economy would greatly benefit from expanded use of its crops," says Randy Woodson, director of Purdue's Agricultural Research Program. "And reducing our country's need for petroleum -- which is non-renewable and economically less stable -- would also prove beneficial."

Woodson says the consortium is a true multi-disciplinary effort aimed at creating facilities, technology, training and expertise for establishing and maintaining a biobased industry in the Midwest. "We envision our own 'Silicon Valley' for agriculturally based chemical products," he says. "This will provide new opportunities for rural communities and new high-tech investments in the Midwest."

Bioproducts and bioenergy come from renewable resources such as plants. Examples of these environmentally friendly technologies include plastics made from soybeans and fuel made from corn.

Members of the consortium are Ames Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Purdue and the University of Illinois.

At Purdue, the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering, or LORRE (pronounced "Lori"), will work with the consortium in developing new biobased products. LORRE is directed by Michael Ladisch, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

According to Ladisch, key issues in converting plants to value-added products will be addressed. "Our laboratory will be involved in processing plant material into a reactive form and in creating cost efficient and environmentally safe catalysts that enable these conversions to be carried out," he says. "We will also develop genetically engineered microorganisms that will be used to produce specialty chemicals and ethanol from cellulose."

Woodson says the National Research Council in a recent report listed biobased products and bioenergy as important areas for study. "We are doing the research that is seen as a priority for the United States," he says.

"The institutions that are part of this consortium have all been conducting research to find additional uses for agricultural products. By joining forces, we plan to draw on one another's strengths to develop products and industries that will benefit the entire Midwest," Woodson says.
Sources: Randy Woodson, 765-494-8362
Michael Ladisch, 765-494-7022

Purdue University

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