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UC Davis is partner in new $125 million federal bioenergy research center

UC Davis researchers who are experts at turning plants into energy for transportation, buildings and industry will be partners in a new $125 million federal bioenergy research center, the U.S. Department of Energy announced this morning.

The funds will establish and support the partnership of three national laboratories and three research universities in Northern California, including UC Davis, to be known as the federal Energy Department's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, pronounced "jay-bay").

Research at the Northern California JBEI will focus on biofuels -- liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant matter. UC Davis' work will be based in the Plant Genomics Program and the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, deciphering the structure of the plant cell walls being converted to fuels and of the microbes doing the converting.

The chief JBEI researcher at UC Davis is Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology and chair of the Plant Genomics Program. Ronald is an expert on the genome of rice. "We will be studying rice as a model grass crop, as well another plant model, Arabidopsis, to understand exactly how the cell wall is constructed," Ronald said. Other UC Davis scientists will be looking for microbes that are particularly adept at degrading those cell walls, which is a key step in the biofuels production process.

Of the $125 million, about $5 million will come to UC Davis, Ronald said.

The JBEI partners are UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Start-up leadership for the project will come from the Berkeley Lab.

The energy department today also announced two other national bioenergy research centers: the DOE BioEnergy Research Center, led by the Oak Ri
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Contact: Pamela Ronald
pcronald@ucdavis.edu
530-752-1654
University of California - Davis
26-Jun-2007


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