Biofuels take spotlight at Frontiers in Bioenergy Symposium

May 6, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University researchers will join Midwest colleagues and industry leaders on campus May 24 and 25 to discuss advancements and development of the next generation of biofuels, including a sustainable liquid fuel made of biomass.

The fifth annual Frontiers in Bioenergy Symposium will feature sessions on the biofuels landscape, biomass biology and sustainable agriculture, fuels from microorganisms, and chemical and thermal conversion routes.

The event will run from 1-5 p.m. May 24 and 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 25 in Stewart Center, Room 218.

Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University and a leading expert in the energy efficiency of biofuels, will deliver the keynote address from 1-2 p.m. May 24.

"The symposium will cover the full spectrum of the biofuels pipeline, from agricultural production of crops for the next-generation liquid fuel to the retail and wholesale distribution process for ethanol made from corn and biomass," said event co-organizer Maureen McCann, Purdue biological sciences professor and co-director of the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, known as C3Bio. "From there, we will discuss the advancements under way for developing a gasoline equivalent made from biomass that's not ethanol."

Full registration for the conference is $130. Registration for Purdue faculty and staff is $50 and $15 for students, which includes meals. The event is free for Purdue students interested in only attending the panel discussions and presentations.

C3Bio and the Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT) are the event organizers. The two projects were funded as Energy Frontier Research Centers by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science in 2009.

A research poster competition also is scheduled. A complete symposium agenda can be downloaded at

Dale has been examining the appropriate metrics to gauge this nation's progress toward energy security. A useful method of measurement is "energy return on energy invested," or EROI, which measures the energy used to produce a unit of energy and is critical to efforts to find sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

Industry leaders scheduled to participate include Billy Glover, director of environmental strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and Edward Lyford-Pike, chief engineer of Cummins Inc.'s Alternative Fuel Program.

From leading Midwest research institutions, speakers include Chris Marshall, director of the Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformation and group leader at Argonne National Laboratory; Mike Himmel, manager of the National Renewal Energy Laboratory's Biomolecular Science Group; Hans Blaschek, microbiology professor and director of the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research at the University of Illinois; Robert Brown, engineering professor and director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University; and Jim Dumesic, chemical and biological engineering professor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Participants from the Purdue biofuels research community are chemistry professor and C3Bio co-director Mahdi Abu-Omar, agricultural economics professor Wally Tyner, aviation technology professor David Stanley, agronomy professor Jeff Volenec, botany and plant pathology professor Nick Carpita, biochemistry professor Clint Chapple, biological sciences professor Lou Sherman, and chemical engineering professor Rakesh Agrewal.

About the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio)

This five-year, $20 million proposal is conducting high-risk, high-reward research for the future deployment of advanced liquid transportation fuels. C3Bio aims to develop transformational technologies for the direct conversion of plant lignocellulosic biomass to hydrocarbon-rich biofuels and other biobased products currently derived from oil. Partners include the University of Tennessee, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, which have facilities for examining the interaction of catalysts with biomass at the atomic level

About the Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT)

Led by the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, the Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations received a five-year, $19 million grant for its multidisciplinary approach to address key catalytic conversions that could improve the efficiency of producing fuels from coal and biomass. With Purdue as a partner, the project is focused on advancing the science of catalysis for the efficient conversion of energy resources into usable forms. Catalysis in chemistry is the acceleration of a chemical reaction caused by the introduction of a substance or material that remains unchanged by the reaction.

Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources:   Maureen McCann, 765-496-1779,
                    Mahdi Abu-Omar, 765-494-5302,
                    Luanne Ludwig, 765-494-2276,