NCERC Seeks to Expand Corn as Industrial Feedstock

Cindy Zimmerman

The National Corn to Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) recently submitted two grant proposals to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) FY21 Bioenergy Technologies (BETO) Multi-Topic Funding Opportunity Announcement that would expand the use of corn as an industrial feedstock, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

The first proposal included NCERC as a Co-PI and was led by Marquis Energy. The purpose of this collaboration is to scale up a conversion method that utilizes corn as a feedstock for sustainable aviation fuel. The work being done at the intermediate scale will be performed at NCERC and brings together additional research centers, including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and US Navy NAWCWD China Lake, to see through a solution that brings significant opportunity for expanding and repurposing the 16 billion-gallon-per-year corn-to-ethanol infrastructure.

The National Corn Growers Association has a vested interest in discovering new uses for corn and has provided a letter of support for this initiative. From renewable plastics to novel chemicals and other energy and liquid fuel applications, corn is competitively positioned as the commercial feedstock of choice thanks to corn’s sustainability, abundance, and affordability. In fact, according to USDA ERS Feed Outlook data, ending stocks for 2020/2021 are around 1,552 million bushels.

The second proposal led by NCERC, “Scaling up a Low-Cost Low Energy Cellulosic Sugar Production,” contributed to the validation of a low-cost, energy-efficient conversion method for cellulosic materials- and waste-to-biofuel. The funding of this proposal would bring significant value to companies who are pursuing the conversion of a variety of bio-based feedstocks to a sugar stream which can then be converted to countless biotechnologies, such as biofuels, biochemicals, biomaterials, and bioproducts.

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