A PROPOSED new facility at the University of Illinois will take biofuel processing to the next level now that the Illinois Capital Development Board has designated more than $20 million to build the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL) within the university's College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences.
As an outgrowth of the Center for BioEnergy Research (CABER), IBRL "will complete the value-chain link between research and commercial viability for advanced biofuels," said Hans Blaschek, professor emeritus and CABER director.
Vijay Singh, a professor in the university's department of agricultural and biological engineering, said, "IBRL provides a niche between the bench-scale study, which can ferment approximately 1 kg of corn, and the large scale, such as the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. They process 200 bu. a day. There was obviously a need for something in between."
In anticipation of the new facility, Singh is working to develop industry relationships and provide connectivity between the industry and other institutions and units interested in pilot-scale proof-of-concept activities.
"We are offering an annual industrial affiliate membership, which includes access to the pilot plant, faculty expertise, working with master's (degree) students (via internships), bioenergy class presentations, one online class and an invitation to the annual industrial members' networking conference," Singh said.
DuPont Industrial Biosciences and Novozymes have joined as affiliate members, and Singh said in the last year, five multinational companies have completed projects at the current facility. Groundbreaking for the new facility should take place this fall, with completion expected in 18 months.