Wal-Mart donates $369,000 for ethanol research

By Ryan C. Christiansen | September 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted Sept. 15, 2008 at 9:56 a.m. CST

The Arkansas Biosciences Institute at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark., has received a $369,000 donation from the Wal-Mart Foundation to complement a $1.48 million U.S. DOE grant to support cellulosic ethanol production research at the university.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Hood, associate vice chancellor for research and technology transfer at Arkansas State University, the funding will help researchers build on growing corn hybrids that produce seeds that have cellulase enzymes within the germs of the kernels. The corn varieties would allow corn-based ethanol plants to fractionate the kernels, she said. The starch from the corn could then be used to make ethanol and the germ from the corn could be used to break down the cellulosic biomass in corn stover into sugars, which can also be used to make ethanol.

"We use seed as a biofactory to produce the enzymes," Hood said. "We use corn seed as a production system, but we're doing a technology that's complementary to starch-based ethanol." She noted that the enzymes in the corn germ can be used to break down any cellulosic feedstock, not just corn stover.

The researchers hope to develop corn hybrids that are ready for market within three years. Hood said Arkansas State University has been collaborating with Texas A&M University and the Applied Biotechnology Institute in San Luis Obispo, Calif.