Breaking the Chemical
and Engineering Barriers to
Lignocellulosic Biofuels

A Workshop to Develop the Roadmap for Making Lignocellulosic Biofuels a Practical Reality


Session Notes
Invited Participants



Overview/Conference Vision

Workshop Chair:
        George W. Huber, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

  • National Science Foundation: Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems, John Regalbuto;
  • Department of Energy: Office of the Biomass, Paul Grabowski;
  • American Chemical Society-Green Chemistry Institute

In his 2007 State of the Union address President Bush proposed to reduce domestic gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next 10 years.  President Bush seeks to reduce our national dependence on imported oil by accelerating the development of domestic renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel.  President Bush has recently stated, “With America on the verge of breakthroughs in advanced energy technologies the best way to break the addiction to foreign oil is through new technologies.”  One of the keys to meet this vision will be the efficient conversion of cellulosic biomass resources to liquid transportation fuels.  Plant biomass is the only current sustainable source of organic carbon, and biofuels, fuels derived from plant biomass, are the only current sustainable source of liquid fuels.  Currently lignocellulosic biomass is significantly cheaper than petroleum (at $15 per barrel of oil energy equivalent) and abundant (have the energy content of 60 % of our domestic crude oil consumption).  However, the chief impediment to the utilization of our biomass resources is the lack of economical processes for conversion of biomass resources into fuels.  To develop these processes it is necessary to understand and overcome the key chemical and engineering barriers, and develop the enabling technologies that will allow us to efficiently use our biomass resources

The objective of this workshop will be to articulate the role of chemistry, chemical catalysis, thermal processing, and engineering in the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into liquid transportation fuels including green gasoline, green diesel and green jet fuel.  A unified national roadmap will be made from this conference as to how academia, industry and governmental agencies can make lignocellulosic biofuels a practical reality. Recommendations will be made and given to government, academic and industry leaders.  The format of the workshop will be to have featured speakers, discussion sessions, and informal interactions.

Six thrust areas will be discussed in this workshop including:

  • Selective Thermal Processing of Lignocellulosic Biomass
  • Utilization of Petroleum Refining Technologies for Biofuel Production
  • Aqueous-phase Catalytic Processing of Sugars and Bio-oils
  • Catalytic Conversion of Syn-gas
  • Process Engineering and Design
  • Cross Cutting 21st Century Science, Technology, and Infrastructure for a New Generation of Biofuel Research

This workshop builds on the success of four previous NSF and DOE workshops.  The previous NSF workshops include: Catalysis for Biorenewables Conversion and Design of Catalyst Systems for Biorenewables  The previous DOE workshops include: Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol and Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass

For cellulosic biofuels to realize their full potential it is vital to overcome the chemical and engineering barriers.   Recent advances in theoretical chemistry combined with new in-situ catalyst characterization methods allow us to understand chemistry at a fundamentally new level.  Combining fundamental chemical understanding with new methods to synthesize nanostructured catalytic materials, the ability to design and simulate complicated reaction networks, and the ability to perform conceptual design and optimization problems allow us to engineer efficient and economical processes for biofuel production.  We invite you to participate in this landmark workshop, to provide a unified vision with academia, industry and government agencies in setting national priorities for breaking the chemical barriers to cellulosic biofuels.

This workshop is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0541524.