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Southeast lands funding for biobased research

The Southeastern Sun Grant Center has announced funding for 13 biobased research proposals from land-grantuniversities in the southeast United States.

The Sun Grant Initiative, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation, is a national program that aims to solve America's energy needs and revitalize rural communities with land-grant university research, education and extension programs on renewable energy and biobased industries.

The initiative is coordinated by five regional Sun Grant centers located throughout the United States. The Southeastern Sun Grant Center is headquartered in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station and is directed by Timothy G. Rials.

The southeastern center coordinates activity in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In March 2007, the Southeastern Sun Grant Center announced the availability of regional competitive grants program with a request for applications, which was sent to key contacts at all land-grant universities in the region. The RFA outlined two grant categories: integrated projects with a maximum funding request of $300,000 for a period of up to three years; and seed grants of up to $50,000 for a one-year period.

In total, more than 130 letters of intent were submitted, resulting in 93 full proposals by the submission deadline.

The following seed grant projects received funding:

Auburn University — Oladiran Fasina, Department of Biosystems Engineering. Agglomeration of biomass feedstocks for bioenergy applications.

Clemson University — Haiying Liang, Department of Genetics and Biochemistry. A novel approach to facilitate accessibility of cellulose and hemicellulose: characterization of hybrid poplar transformed with a tyrosine rich peptide gene.

Clemson University — Mike Henson, Department of Biological Sciences. Conversion of agricultural materials to biofuels and bioproducts by Thermotoga neapolitana, a hyperthermophilic, anaerobic bacterium.

Mississippi State University — Jian-Zhong Sun, Coastal Research and Extension Center. Biological energy production from biomass by wood-feeding termites.

North Carolina State University — Orlando Rojas, Department of Wood and Paper Science. Use of complex fluids for enhanced cellulosic pre-treatment.

University of Florida — Gary Peter, School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Evaluation of reduced lignin softwood and hardwoods for improved conversion to bioethanol.

University of Tennessee — Alison Buchan, Department of Microbiology. Identifying novel lignin and lignocellulose degrading enzymes from natural decomposer communities.

Integrated projects that received funding include:

Auburn University — Sang-Jin Suh, Department of Biological Sciences. Development of a microbial factory for efficient conversion of biodiesel glycerol to value-added products.

Florida A&M University — Subramanian Ramakrishnan, Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Enzymatic and multiphase solution processing of lignocellulosic biomass.

North Carolina State University — Hasan Jameel, Department of Wood and Paper Science. Optimization of pretreatments for the production of ethanol from genetically modified hardwoods with high cellulose and low lignin content.

University of Kentucky — Sue Nokes, Department of Biosystems and Ag Engineering. Bacterial adaptations for enhanced cellulose utilization: a systems approach.

University of Tennessee — Neal Stewart, Department of Plant Sciences. Comparative genomics guided genetic modification of switchgrass cell wall for improved lignin characteristics and increased cellulose availability.

Virginia Tech — Maren Roman, Department of Wood Science and Forest Products. Mechanisms of surfactant effects on biomass conversion.

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