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USDA Grants Hood $100,000 for Biofuels Project

Thursday, June 21, 2018
USDA Grant
Anastazia Jablunovsky ’19 (left) and Codi West ’19 working in the lab

FREDERICK, Maryland—The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded Hood College Professor of Biology Craig Laufer $100,000 over an 18-month period to fund research and development of cost-effective biofuels. Successful completion of this project would qualify Laufer’s lab for larger grants for commercialization.

The grant is through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The research will focus on a new biotechnology idea that could significantly lower the cost of enzymes needed to produce biofuels and bioproducts, making them more cost-competitive with petroleum fuels. Increased U.S. biofuel production would lower the country’s dependence on imported oil and provide significant climate change mitigation benefits.

The project will provide hands-on experiential training for master’s-level and undergraduate students at Hood College. Hood will work with Atlantic Biomass, LLC, a Frederick, Maryland-based biofuel technology company that is focused on the development of affordable, advanced renewable biofuels. The key aspect of this joint effort has been the discovery and development of a sequential enzyme process that converts plant biomass into fermentation-ready sugars without the use of expensive pretreatments. The first application of this system is converting energy beets to bio-jet fuel. The technology funded by the USDA grant will help reduce enzyme costs, making biofuels more competitive commercially.

This project is timely with Hood’s hiring of a new Endowed Chair Professor in Biofuels to start in fall 2018, funded through the Maryland Department of Commerce E-Nnovation Initiative Program and The Hodson Trust.