Wednesday, July 30, 2008

[PBN] Australia: Biobutanol - Science to refine a cleaner chemical future

From: UQ News Online - 30/07/2008
The University of Queensland, the Australian sugar industry and a Korean research force have teamed up with the goal of "greening" the global chemical industry.

The new Korea-Australia Bio-Product Alliance will aim to assist the $1.5 trillion chemical industry to switch its dependence from fossil fuels to renewable biomass.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh clinched the $5.4 million partnership last month by committing $1.4 million from the National and International Research Alliances Program.

With a specific focus on sugarcane as the raw material for biorefineries (which feed on renewable biomass instead of fossil fuels), it is the world's first alliance to target development of sucrose-based biorefinery technology.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield said the technical goal includes technology to produce cost-effective, sustainable butanol for chemical manufacturing.

“Butanol was the world's second-largest industrial biotechnology product until World War II, but then advances in petrochemical technology made it uneconomical," Professor Greenfield said.

“The alliance will use modern metabolic engineering to develop new cost-effective, sustainable processes for use of butanol in chemical production.”

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) researchers will work with experts from UQ's
Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, the UQ-based Cooperative Research Centre for Sugar Industry Innovation through Biotechnology (CRC SIIB), and CSR.

“The three-year project is made possible by the Queensland Government's support for a robust partnership between KAIST and UQ and is enhanced by the involvement of CRC SIIB and CSR,” said UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor David Siddle.

“The research follows the signing of a
KAIST-UQ agreement in South Korea in May 2007 (which was witnessed by then Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie).

“It is bolstered by a cash commitment of $2.7 million from KAIST and $500,000 from CRC SIIB.

“Having CSR on the team gives a direct route to commercialisation of the research outcomes,” Professor Siddle said.

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