Colin Scanes, Plant Sciences Institute, (515) 294-5267
Tom Barton, Ames Laboratory, (515) 294-2770
Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778


AMES, Iowa – Scientists from six institutions, including Iowa State University and the Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory at Iowa State, have formed a consortium that will conduct research and technology transfer on biobased products and energy.

In addition to ISU and Ames Laboratory, members of the Midwest Consortium for Sustainable Biobased Products and Bioenergy are Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill.; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Michigan State University, East Lansing; and Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

At Iowa State, scientists from the Plant Sciences Institute and the Agricultural Experiment Station will participate in the consortium's research projects and technology transfer activities.

"The goal is to develop a new chemical industry in the Midwest based on agricultural feedstocks and biotechnology," said Colin Scanes, interim director of Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute. "This requires a strong technical base for innovation and education coupled with an investment climate that encourages creativity in transferring technologies to the private sector."

Bioproducts and bioenergy are made from renewable resources such as plants. Examples include plastics made from soybeans, building materials made from corn stalks and fuels made from switchgrass. Most fuels and chemicals used today could be made from plants rather than from non-renewable petroleum sources, Scanes said.

Ames Laboratory director Tom Barton said the consortium will provide a broad-based, multidisciplinary approach to biobased research. As a DOE research facility, Ames Laboratory scientists frequently collaborate with colleagues at ISU and throughout the nation in exploring alternative energy sources.

"Ames Laboratory is committed to finding new and better ways of using plant matter as renewable sources for energy biobased products," Barton said.

Last August, President Clinton issued an executive order calling for a tripling of the nation's use of biobased products and bioenergy by the year 2010. The administration proposed an increase in funding for a biobased chemicals and energy program to be led by the DOE and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, Congress is considering several bills related to biobased products and bioenergy.

"The biobased area is attracting a great deal of interest and support," Scanes said. "The Midwestern consortium will have the necessary resources to integrate technologies, build technical infrastructures and link the private and public partners who will bring biobased chemicals to commercial reality."

The formation of the consortium is being announced in conjunction with the conference, "National Biobased Products and Bioenergy Initiative: The Role and Capacities of the State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges," June 15-16, at the Scheman Building at Iowa State.


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