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NSF-funded Consortium to Facilitate Development of Tech. for Production of Renewable Chemicals

September 9, 2013

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology will participate in a three-year, $6 million National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored consortium to address strategic national security priorities.

The goal of the collaborative effort is to create new jobs and reduce the United States' dependence on imported oil by developing sustainable resources based on biomass processing.

The Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grant will bring together innovators from North and South Dakota in the Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium (DakotaBioCon).

Specifically, the consortium will facilitate the development of novel bioprocessing technologies for the sustainable production of high-value chemicals and materials from renewable resources, with special attention to products derived from crops as economically viable alternatives to imported petroleum-based chemicals.

Spearheading the effort at the School of Mines is Lew Christopher, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Bioprocessing Research and Development and associate professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Under the broader research umbrella of lignin bioprocessing, the university will participate in microbial and enzymatic biodegradation and high-temperature hydrotreatment of lignin.

Other DakotaBioCon institutions are North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota and South Dakota State University.

Aimed at fostering world-class research through regional improvements to research infrastructure, the NSF funds RII Track-2 awards as part of its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

Together, these RII Track-2 awards involve researchers from institutions in 10 states who address critical research challenges, including the health of coastal lands, sustainable and efficient water use and the development of bioprocessing technologies for alternative production in the U.S.

With a far-reaching vision to become an intellectual leader for lignin processing, DakotaBioCon aims to enhance collaborative research, build academic infrastructure to increase competitiveness for federal support in this growing research area and enable the adoption and commercialization of the best technologies.