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Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center converts biomass to energy

Russ White
Lou Anna K. Simon, Phil Robertson, Mark Hollis

“I do bioenergy research and try to turn biomass into energy to replace fossil fuels,” Phil Robertson, scientific director and sustainability lead for the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis.

The mission of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center is grand, but simply stated: to generate the knowledge needed to sustainably produce specialty biofules and bioproducts from lignocellulosic bioenergy crops.

The GLBRC is led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with Michigan State University as a major partner, and is one of three bioenergy research centers established in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

With more than 400 scientists, students and staff representing a wide array of disciplines from microbiology to economics and engineering, the GLBRC’s collaborative spirit illustrates how cooperation among academic, federal and private sector researchers can generate an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts.

GLBRC is working to meet the nation’s need for a comprehensive suite of clean energy technologies, including next generation and drop-in fuels that can be used in today’s engines, as well as a suite of bioproducts. The GLBRC's research supports the development of a robust pipeline from biomass production through pretreatment and final conversion to biofuels and bioproducts, with sustainability providing a unifying theme.

In addition to basic research and industry engagement, the GLBRC has a strong Education and Outreach program that broadens public understanding of current issues in bioenergy, provides professional development resources for educators, and learning opportunities for tomorrow’s energy leaders.

In the summer of 2017, DOE announced that the three current centers and one new center had received funding for another five years. As GLBRC leaders start the new GLBRC, their goal is to continue integrating the center’s expertise in support of three key knowledge gaps: comprehensive integration of the field-to-product pipeline, sustainable production of bioenergy crops with desirable traits, and efficient conversion of biomass into specialty biofuels and bioproducts.

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