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NDSU Receives Grant to Study the Development of Biomaterials Industry

NDSU awarded an $800,000 grant to further develop and commercialize the technology to produce biobased products.

A consortium led by North Dakota State University economists in the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics has been awarded an $800,000 grant to further develop and commercialize the technology to produce biobased products.

The grant was awarded by the North Dakota Industrial Commission after being reviewed by the Renewable Energy Council.

“Our initial studies indicate that we can use biomass feedstocks, such as wheat straw, to create ethanol and cellulose nanofibers (very small fibers),” says F. Larry Leistritz, NDSU agricultural economist and principal investigator in the new study. “The nanofibers would be used to make biocomposites that could substitute for fiberglass and plastic in many applications, such as automotive parts and furniture.”

In this phase of the study, the technical and economic feasibility of building a pilot-scale production facility will be determined. Cellulose nanofibers and composite materials made with nanofibers also will be evaluated.

“We will prepare a strategic business plan for the integration of public and private sector resources to build a pilot plant,” says Nancy Hodur, NDSU economist and co-principal investigator. “The plan will detail the likely nature of operations for a corporate entity and examine potential markets, capitalization requirements and projected financial performance.”

A key partner in the project is MBI International, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation. MBI International is leading efforts in process and product development. Bernie Steele, MBI International director of operations, will serve as principal investigator for the company. Farzaneh Teymouri, MBI International senior engineer, will direct the technical operations. Lawrence T. Drzal will direct work at the Michigan State University Composite Materials and Structures Center under a subcontract to MBI International.

Other consultants for the project include Amit Shukla, Great River Energy of Maple Grove, Minn., and Donald Senechal, The Windmill Group of Drake, N.D.

“By developing the technology to produce a valuable coproduct, such as nanofibers, from what would otherwise be a low-value residue from the ethanol producing process, the project has substantial potential to enhance the economic attractiveness of building biorefineries that use cellulosic materials, such as wheat straw,” Leistritz says. “The successful completion of the project will increase the probability of near-term development of North Dakota’s biomass resources.”

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:F.Larry Leistritz,(701) 231-7455, f.leistritz@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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