Symposium to feature bioenergy industry, academic experts from Purdue, Brazil

May 6, 2011

Maureen McCann

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Leading bioenergy industry experts, researchers and government officials from the United States and Brazil will gather at Purdue University this month to outline a path for global sustainable bioenergy production.

More than 300 people are scheduled to participate in the sixth annual Frontiers in Bioenergy: U.S.-Brazil Symposium on Bioenergy Production, which runs May 15-18 in Purdue's Stewart Center. Event sponsors include Discovery Park, Purdue Energy Center, the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science and the National Science Foundation's Plant Genome Research Program.

"This year's symposium will feature an impressive lineup of U.S. and Brazilian leaders discussing how we can achieve sustainable bioenergy production," said Purdue biological sciences professor Maureen McCann, director of the Energy Center in Discovery Park. "In particular, we will engage with our Brazilian colleagues to forge strong collaborations around our common goal of making bioenergy a key component of national energy security."

Participants will include leaders from biotechnology industries involved in genetic improvement of energy crop plants such as Chromatin Inc. and Ceres Inc. as well as second- and third-generation biofuels research groups such as ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Honeywell subsidiary UOP LLC, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association and POET LLC.

Brazilian researchers from the University of Vicosa, University of Itajubá and University São Paulo will join them. U.S. researchers from Cornell University, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, Purdue, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also are participating in the four-day symposium.

Keynote speakers are Marcos Buckeridge, scientific director of the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory; U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Philip H. Cullom, director of Energy and Environmental Readiness Division; Paul Gilna, director of the BioEnergy Science Center at Oak Ridge; and Sharlene Weatherwax, director of the DOE's biological and environmental research. 

Workshops will feature speakers and discussions on feedstock, genetics and genomics; biology and genetics of sustainability; landscape sustainability assessment of bioenergy cropping systems; feedstock logistics; biochemical and thermochemical conversion pathways; and human dimensions and the economic and policy issues for advanced biofuels.

Analysts say rising oil prices are helping Brazil confirm its position as a world leader in bioenergy. Brazilian exports of alcohol made from sugarcane alone are expected to increase from 800 million liters last year to 2 billion liters this year.

"We can learn a great deal from Brazil's success in becoming energy independent," said event co-organizer Nick Carpita, a Purdue botany and plant pathology professor. "Brazil's energy independence in a large part has made them the second-fastest growing economy in the world. In turn, Brazilian scientists can learn much in return from U.S. innovation in third-generation biofuels and the chemical engineering of biobased products."

Registration, which is $350, includes the opening reception with hors d'oeuvres on May 15; continental breakfast on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; a Monday evening reception with a barbecue buffet; and a Tuesday banquet.

For information on registration and abstract submission, contact Erica Wilson at  or 765-494-7221. For information about the symposium, speakers, sessions and other details, contact Jill Wable of the Energy Center at  or 765-494-1610.

Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students and pretenured faculty can still apply for free-registration awards thanks to support from the DOE's Office of Science and the National Science Foundation's Plant Genome Research Program. Applicants must reside at U.S. institutions. Go to  for an application and registration form.

The Energy Center, led by McCann, is part of the university's Global Sustainability Initiative, which was recently launched in Discovery Park to coordinate Purdue's research efforts in sustainability challenges such as climate change, energy, the environment and water. The initiative includes the Center for the Environment, Purdue Water Community, Purdue Climate Change Research Center and the Purdue Center for Global Food Security.

McCann also is director of the $20 million Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, which is developing new methods to directly convert the bulk of plants like maize, sorghum and switchgrass to advanced biofuels and other products currently derived from oil. 

Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources:  Maureen McCann, 765-496-1779,

                  Nick Carpita, 765-494-4653,