Bio-energy Research: Solid State Fermentation of Biomass for Renewable Chemicals and Fuels

In the coming decades biomass will play a critical role in sustainable development, serving as our only renewable resource for carbon-based chemicals, and providing a practical alternative to petrochemical transportation fuels.

During the last few years our group has been developing an innovative strategy for addressing the large scale transformation of biomass feedstock to chemicals and fuels. We are reconfiguring the traditional ensilage process to accomplish cost effective biomass storage, pretreatment, and conversion. This novel solid-state fermentation uses a combination of microbial and enzymatic activity to hydrolyze structural carbohydrates, producing simple sugars and organic acids that can be recovered and converted to high value products.

Our biomass research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation and the USDA-DOE Biomass Research and Development Initiative, with collaborators at Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin, Dartmouth, World Resources Institute, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, John Deere and Genencor International.

field of cover crops

Photo by Bob Nichols, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

ethanol plant

Ethanol Plant. Photo by Tom Richard.