DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The University of North Texas has become a partner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC). With the addition of UNT, the BESC is now an 18-partner consortium consisting of more than 300 members from university, industrial and private foundation associates studying ways to generate biofuels.
UNT Distinguished Research Professor of Biology Dr. Richard Dixon will work with the center on a research project investigating how to develop liquid biofuels from genetically engineered switchgrass. Switchgrass is an ideal plant for creating biofuel because of its high productivity and adaption for growth in a wide area of the South East and Great Plains. The carbohydrates in the plant’s cell walls are released and converted into ethanol. Post-doctoral researchers Luis Escamellia-Treviño and Hui Shen will work with Dixon on the project.
“Moving ethanol production away from a corn-based system is important to lessen the strain on the world’s food resources,” Dixon said. “We are engineering switchgrass that will easily break down for fermentation to become biofuel.”
“We welcome the addition of UNT to the BESC partnership as it allows us to continue our engagement of Dr. Dixon and also affords us access to the considerable plant science resources that are being developed at UNT,” said Paul Gilna, director of the BioEnergy Science Center.
UNT hosted a contract signing ceremony June 6 making the partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratories official. A photo from the event can be found online.
BESC is one of three DOE BioEnergy Research Centers established by the DOE's Office of Science in 2007. The centers support multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams pursuing the fundamental scientific breakthroughs needed to make production of cellulosic biofuels, or biofuels from nonfood plant fiber, cost-effective on a national scale.