Grant will be used to revamp laboratories and to buy fermenters, incubators, and analytical equipment.

Cornell professor of biological and environmental engineering Larry Walker received a $10 million grant from Empire State Development to advance technologies that convert perennial grasses and woody biomass to ethanol. The grant will be used to upgrade the university’s industrial biotechnology laboratories.

“Although corn-based ethanol production is the current state-of-the-art technology, the future development, success, and sustainability of the U.S. ethanol industry hinges on developing and converting perennial grasses and woody biomass, cellulosic biomass, to ethanol,” Walker points out.

The money will be used to renovate laboratories in Riley Robb Hall and to purchase fermenters, incubators, and analytical equipment. It also will improve researchers’ abilities to overcome the physical, chemical, and biological barriers to liberating sugars from such energy crops as switchgrass, miscanthus, and other perennial grasses as well as woody biomass and to biologically convert these sugars into such biofuels as ethanol, butanol, or hydrogen.

“Cellulosic ethanol production could be economically advantageous for New York state because we know how to grow grasses and woody biomass, and we know how to implement biotechnology,” says Walker, who additionally is editor in chief of Industrial Biotechnology, published by Mary Ann Liebert that also publishes GEN. “These activities are core to the industrial biotechnology component to the evolving New York biofuels sector.”

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