KSU gets $5 million for biofuel development

By The Mercury

A Kansas State University grain science professor has won a $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to study how to make a common oil into a cost-effective biofuel and bioproduct feedstock.

The award, to Susan Sun, university distinguished professor of grain science and industry and director of K-State’s Bio Materials and Technology Laboratory, was announced Friday after noon by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. It was part of $25 million in grants announced Friday to fund research and development of next-generation renewable energy products from biomass sources.

The KSU project seeks to incorporate the oilseed crop camelina into a cropping system with wheat-based crop rotations in Montana and Wyoming. Once harvested and processed, its oil and meal will be chemically converted to a variety of adhesives, coatings and composites.

The project also is designed to assess the feasibility of the nonfood oilseed as a sustainable resource with minimal negative impact on food crop systems or the environment.

“USDA’s continuing investments in research and development are proving a critical piece of President Obama’s strategy to spur innovation of clean bioenergy right here at home and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Vilsack in making the announcement. “The advances made through this research will help to boost local economies throughout rural America, creating and sustaining good-paying jobs, while moving our nation toward a clean energy economy.”

It and the other projects announced Friday are funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Biomass Research and

Development Initiative. The funded research will help increase the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products to diversify the nation’s energy resources.

Grant recipients are required to contribute a minimum of 20 percent matching funds for research and development projects and 50 percent matching funds for demonstration projects. For the K-State project, that appeared to translate to about a $1 million match.

K-State officials did not have further information at press time. Sun has been at K-State since 1996. She has authored 120 articles for scientific journals, and her research has led to eight patents.

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