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Bioenergy focus of Australian University - U.S. National Lab research pact

First PNNL joint staff appointment with foreign research institution

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June 22, 2016 Share This!

  • PNNL Scientist Alex Beliaev is expected to hold the first joint research appointment with Queensland University of Technology. He led the team that developed the novel photobioreactor systems that have been successfully applied to photosynthetic microbes and their potential as bioenergy producers. Capabilities developed at PNNL in controlled cultivation and systems microbiology not only enable alternative fuel research but also outline a path toward mass-production of biomass and its conversion to biofuels.

  • This jar of bio-oil was made from plant matter in a process called fast pyrolysis. Bio-oil is an alternate route to make transportation fuels that we currently get from petroleum.

  • The fungus Trichoderma reesei, shown here growing on finely-ground pieces of discarded corn stover (stalks, leaves and cobs), could foster rapid conversion of biomass to fuels. The fungus is known for its profuse production of biomass-degrading enzymes, which enhance the conversion process. PNNL Researchers have studied the genomes of Trichoderma reesei and other fungi, seeking to better understand enzyme production, and how enzymes might achieve biofuel breakthroughs.

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RICHLAND, Wash. — Coaxing energy from renewable resources like plant matter or algae, cost-effectively, is a scientific challenge larger than one research team or even one nation. Now, two research institutions half way across the globe from each other are banding together to share information, ideas and even staff.

The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, have collaborated on bioenergy and microbial biotechnology in the past. Now they are formalizing their relationship to enhance their bioenergy research, promote education, and develop industry around and viable bioenergy solutions in their respective countries — with special emphasis on adaptive bioprocesses.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by PNNL Director of Strategic Partnerships, Doug Ray and QUT's Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Commercialisation, Arun Sharma.

This is the first time PNNL has entered into a MOU involving joint staff appointments with a research institution outside the U.S. PNNL microbiologist Alex Beliaev is expected to hold the first joint research appointment between the two organizations. The agreement will also involve collaborative research and academic exchange including staff and students.

PNNL brings expertise in systems biology, including fungal, algal and microbial genomics, computational biology and an array of cutting-edge multi 'omics capabilities. The field of 'omics explores how genes, proteins and various metabolic products interact. The term arises from research that explores the function of biological components within the context of the entire cell to understand how organisms work, such as genomics for genes, proteomics for proteins, and so on.

QUT's expertise lies with plant biotechnology, consolidated bioprocessing and process modeling. The QUT Center for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities partners with a wide range of commercial entities and funders such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Both institutions work in advanced thermochemical conversion of biomass to create biofuels, plant-derived chemicals and other bioproducts. The partnership will focus on work that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide low-carbon energy solutions in both countries.

Tags: Energy, Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Biomass, Biofuel, Green Energy

PNNL LogoInterdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed and operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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