Cornell University’s David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future has awarded $1.4 million from its Academic Venture Fund to 12 new university projects, including several related to biomass and bioenergy production.
One of the 12 project aims to produce bioenergy from manure. According to information released by the center, scientists will develop a treatment process to extract the maximum amount of energy, including biogas, liquid biofuels, electricity and thermal energy, from manure and other food production wastes.
A separate project will focus on pyrolysis. Under that initiative, researchers will work with an aquaponic greenhouse that integrates fish and vegetable farming to test a commercial-scale pyrolysis energy system powered by yard waste. The system is designed to provide heat year round without the use of fossil fuels. Biochar coproduct will be used as a soil amendment and may have applications in filtering fishpond water.
A third project will address beetle outbreaks. According to information released by the center, bark beetle infestations can kill up to 90 percent of larger trees. Under the new project, scientists will assess the long-term impacts of these outbreaks on the entire ecosystem.
A fourth bioenergy project focuses on biofuel surrogates for transportation fuels. According to center, researchers will create biofuel surrogates, or chemical blends, to match the engine efficiency and value of two high-value fossil fuels.
“The Academic Venture Fund is a ‘seed’ fund, the academic-equivalent of angel investing, providing that first, much-needed boost of support to see if a good idea has legs,” said Frank DiSalvo, director of the center and the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science. “One measure of impact is how many of those seeds grow, and in this we have been unusually successful with $8 in follow-on funding for every $1 we have spent. As our early seeds mature, we are seeing on-the-ground impact in Africa, Indonesia, Latin America and here at home.”