Development of high yield tropical feedstocks and biomass conversion technology for renewable energy production and economic development

Sponsor: U.S. Department of Energy

The focus of this bioenergy project is on tropical feedstocks, primarily C4 grasses, Pennisetum purpureum (Banagrass), Megathyrsus maximus (Guinea grass), and Saccharum officinarum (energy cane) that can perform well in underutilized lands in the state. The project will identify high yielding Napier and Guinea grass varieties found in Hawaii along with selected energy cane varieties, compare their growth and development across a range of well-characterized environments, and identify and generate varieties/cultivars with desirable traits for commercial biofuel production. Furthermore, best management practices for bioenergy crops that maintain soil carbon stocks and increase carbon sequestration with the subsequent decreases in carbon dioxide emission will be assessed. The chemical composition of these crops as suitable lignocellulosic sources will be determined. Another challenge to be addressed by this project is the biochemical conversion of lignocelluloses from these crops into simple sugars that can be fermented into ethanol. New approaches will be tested for its effectiveness to enhance the enzymatic hydrolysis of pretreated biomass. The final research task will be to investigate the potential of thermochemical conversion of C4 grasses into biofuels and bioproducts and the potential of these crops as a high yielding lignocellulosic feedstock for local production of liquid transportation fuels.
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