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July 8, 2013

Purdue-led C3Bio bids for win in DOE's creative research storytelling challenge

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A bioenergy research initiative led by Purdue University is participating in a storytelling challenge that creatively highlights its efforts to advance how liquid fuels and high-value bioproducts are made from non-food plant biomass.

The story, "The Walk Forward of Sun-Grown Green-Thing Energy," was submitted by the Purdue Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, known as C3Bio, as part of a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC).

Through the competition, "Science in Only Ten-Hundred and One Words Challenge," researchers from Purdue's C3Bio team and others were asked to highlight an EFRC-centric scientific breakthrough, diagram a complicated method or procedure developed and pertinent to their research, or illustrate the impact on society of their research mission.

The lone caveat: Stories had to use the 1,000 most common words in the English language, with the addition of a single word essential to the DOE - energy. Entries could include images, cartoons, photos, word art or original paintings, allowing for a full range of creative options.

"We had a lot of fun putting this story together, but we definitely had to use some creative muscles that don't get much exercise in scientific writing," said C3Bio project manager Carl Huetteman. "The hardest part was trying to name and describe the biology, chemistry and engineering that make up our research project."

The Purdue story begins with the evolution of biofuels technology from ethanol to the advanced hydrocarbon fuels, which is the thrust of C3Bio's research, he said. The story then adds a flavor of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories" along with "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome."

No more than five submissions will be selected by a panel of judges, which will consider visual interest, description of the science's impact, clarity of the storytelling, use of images and other factors. The People's Choice Award will go to the submission gaining the most votes.

To review the Purdue story and cast a vote for the People's Choice Award, go online to http://www.energyfrontier.us. Voting will run through 11:59 p.m. July 16.

Up to five winning teams and the People's Choice Award will be honored onstage and their entries screened at the July 18 plenary session during the upcoming EFRC meeting in Washington, D.C. Winners also will receive certificates.

All submitted entries will be displayed during the two poster sessions at the meeting and on the EFRC website.

Funded with a $20 million DOE grant, the Purdue-led C3Bio is investigating methods to bypass currently used biological fermentation processes to reduce the need for large and expensive biorefineries and to produce "drop-in" biofuels similar to gasoline.

C3Bio, based in Discovery Park's Bindley Bioscience Center and led by Purdue biological sciences professor Maureen McCann, is one of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers funded in 2009 spanning the full range of energy research, and one of the 16 that were funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Partners include the University of Tennessee, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Northeastern University and Argonne National Laboratory. 

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Carl Huetteman, 765-496-9640, chuettem@purdue.edu

Maureen McCann, 765-496-1779, mmccann@purdue.edu

Related websites: 

Purdue Energy Center

U.S. Department of Energy

Discovery Park