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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Sustainable Biofuels and Coproducts Research Unit

A Research Unit of the Eastern Regional Research Center, ARS, USDA
600 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038

Dr. Kevin B. Hicks, Research Leader,
Jacqueline F. Kenny, Program Support Assistant
Voice:  (215) 233-6580
Fax:  (215) 233-6406

View the SBCP Brochure (PDF)


In the Spotlight


Hicks wins Award of Excellence 



Kevin Hicks, a Research Leader for the Sustainable Biofuels Research Unit, Eastern Regional Research Center, ARS, USDA in Wyndmoor, PA was presented the Fuel Ethanol Award of Excellence at the 29th International Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis on June 11, 2013.  The award, given by BBI Incorporated, is given to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the fuel ethanol industry through their research, technical advisory and/or development activities.  Kevin has conducted research to benefit the biofuels industry for over 15 years resulting in many new publications, patents, methods, varieties of new cereal and biomass feedstocks, new biofuel processes and coproducts that have benefitted the industry. 


The complete story can be seen here:


Turning agriculture into oil, bio oil, that is

The process dates to ancient Egypt. Now, it’s being studied here by the USDA as a way to fuel farms.

Pour a few handfuls of chopped- up corn stalks or switchgrass into a hopper. Heat rapidly. Funnel the resulting mixture through an intricate network of metal pipes and canisters.

Chemical engineer Akwasi A. Boateng holds up a sample of oil produced by the process called fast pyrolysis.

Out the other end — drip, drip — comes a thick brown liquid that looks an awful lot like oil.

Called bio oil, it is not quite the same as what comes out of a well. But it is close enough that government scientists think the process, called fast pyrolysis, is a promising way for farmers to enhance energy security.

The room-size network of pipes and canisters is a pilotscale reactor in Wyndmoor, at the eastern regional research center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Scientists there are confident that, with some tweaking, they can turn any “biomass” — even manure — into oil that can be refined into gasoline or diesel fuel.

“We want to engineer this for the farm,” said Akwasi A. Boateng, the chemical engineer who is leading the effort for the Agricultural Research Service.

Click here to read more.



ERRC Participates in the 2013 Farmshow - Harrisburg, Pennsylvania


(Left to Right): Butch Scullen, LiMei Yun, Kenyetta Chaney, Bernadette DiAndrea, Dr. Michael Haas


Pennsylvania is proudly hosted the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the country, with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits. This was the 97th Pennsylvania Farm Show to celebrate agriculture – Made in PA. It makes a difference. The 2013 show ran Jan. 5-12, 2013.



USDA Announces Investments in Bioenergy Research and Development to Spur New Markets, Innovation, and Unlimited Opportunity in Rural America


On January 11, 2013 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the funding of a $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative grant for the Eastern Regional Research Center’s Sustainable Biofuels and CoProducts Research Unit. The grant will allow ERRC and their 12 partners to develop an on-the-farm distributed technology for converting forest residues, horse manure, switchgrass and other perennial grasses into biofuels and high-value specialty chemicals. The process will be implemented at on-the-farm scale using a patent-pending unit that will mimic the petroleum industry’s catalytic cracking process. The project integrates a life cycle assessment from collection and handling of the biomass to end products and will use thermodynamic principles to assess its sustainability.


Dr. Akwasi Boateng
of ERRC is the Principal Investigator and originator of the proposal. Essential research partners include Montgomery County (PA) Farm Bureau, American Refining Group, Mesa Reduction Engineering and Processing Inc., RER Energy Group, SAPPI North America, Siemens, Inc., University of South Carolina, University of Delaware, University of Maine, Drexel University with Swarthmore College and SUNY ESF, Villanova University with PQ/Zeolyst Corp., Morrisville State College, University of Oklahoma, and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.


To view entire news release online, visit



Olive oil’s health benefits? It’s a slippery question

You feel good about using olive oil, right? You know it’s good for you, tasty and easy to use. Still, to get the most benefits — and the best bang for your buck – there’s more you should know.

“The health benefits of olive oil are 99 percent related to the presence of the phenolic compounds, not the oil itself,” says Nasir Malik, research plant physiologist at the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service.

Malik is referring to the polyphenols in olive oil, nutrients also found in wine, tea, cocoa and many fruits and vegetables that have been discovered over the past decade to be the substances responsible for the bulk of olive oil’s health benefits, without which “you might as well use canola oil,” Malik says.

And when tested, polyphenols were surprisingly low in most commercially available olive oils, according to a recently published study conducted by the Agricultural Research Service, co-authored by Malik.

Read full article at





ASABE Superior Paper Award



ERRC Researchers Dr. Kevin Hicks and Ms. Jhanel Wilson were recently honored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Their paper, co-authored with former ERRC Engineer Dr. Rolando Flores on "Progressive Hull Removal from Barley Using the Fitzpatrick Comminuting Mill" was selected for a ASABE Superior Paper Award given in recognition of authorship of a contribution to agricultural and biological engineering literature of exceptional merit. This is the highest award ASABE gives for publications in its series of journals.


Congratulations Kevin and Jhanel!



2012 A. Richard Baldwin Award



The American Oil Chemist Society is pleased to announce the 2012 A. Richard Baldwin Award presented to Michael J. Haas, USDA, ARS, ERRC, at the 103rd AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo.


Congratulations Mike for winning the AOCS's "highest service award".



New Corn Fibre Gum Extraction Process Offers Emulsion Boost


A new process to isolate corn fibre gum and preserve more of its functional components may contribute to better emulsifying properties, say researchers.  The new isolation technique, developed by researchers from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a further step in the development and expansion of the uses of corn fibre gum, which the authors have previously said has potential to eventually replace gum arabic as an emulsifying agent.


The research team, led by Dr. Madhav Yadav from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, said that the new extraction process, which preserves more of the corn's functional components such as proteins and lipids, will help to produce a corn fibre gum that has better emulsifying properties.


Read more about it in this pdf file.



USDA Scientists Use Commercial Enzyme to Improve Grain Ethanol Production


Adding enzymes to help extract water from an ethanol byproduct used to make dried distillers grains with solubles could significantly reduce the inputs and costs associated with making grain ethanol and its marketable byproducts. 

WASHINGTON—A commercial enzyme could reduce overall costs linked with producing ethanol from grain, and also reduce associated emissions of greenhouse gases, according to a study by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and colleagues.

The researchers found that the enzyme helps extract water from an ethanol byproduct used to make dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), which can be used as feed supplements for cattle, swine and poultry. This could significantly reduce the amount of electricity, natural gas, energy and water needed for production of grain ethanol and its marketable byproducts. Results from this study were published in the scientific journal Industrial Biotechnology.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists David Johnston and Andrew McAloon at the agency's Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., helped lead the study. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and these findings support the USDA priority of developing new sources of bioenergy. Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) professor Milorad Dudukovic and graduate student Ana Beatriz Henriques in the WUSTL Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering also were members of the research team.

"The production of grain ethanol is a key component in our nation's efforts to increase the supply of transportation fuels derived from renewable plant resources," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "The results from this investigation give us new tools for increasing the efficiency of grain ethanol production and for protecting our natural resource base."

The study was conducted at Center Ethanol Company in Sauget, Ill., a commercial facility that produces 54 million gallons of ethanol and 172,000 tons of DDGS every year from corn. In the study, the scientists added one pound of an experimental dewatering enzyme for each 1,000 pounds of corn. The enzyme was supplied by Genencor, a major developer and manufacturer of industrial enzymes that is now part of DuPont Industrial Biosciences. After the grain had been fermented into ethanol, the researchers transferred the leftover slurry of corn solids and water, called "stillage," into a centrifuge, where much of the water was extracted.

The stillage was transferred first to an evaporator and then to a dryer powered by natural gas for another round of moisture reduction. The scientists found that the amount of natural gas needed by the dryer to reduce stillage moisture content to levels suitable for DDGS production dropped 14 percent because water extraction in the centrifuge had been boosted by the enzymes.

Data from these trials were used to calibrate an existing economic model of ethanol production. The resulting estimates indicated that using the enzymes to dewater the stillage would reduce overall facility water use by 10 percent, reduce electricity consumption by 2.4 percent and reduce natural gas consumption by 12 percent. The model indicated that these reductions would in turn reduce the emission of greenhouse gases equivalent to approximately 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year from a mid-sized ethanol facility producing around 50 million gallons of grain ethanol annually.



Annual Recognition Program and Award Recipients


Area Early Career Research Scientist


Helen L. Ngo, North Atlantic Area, Wyndmoor, PA, for outstanding research in developing processes for converting fats and oils into biobased products and biofuels.


Superior Efforts Awards


Winter Barley Ethanol Initiative Team for developing and transferring technology for the Mid-Alantic winter barley ethanol industry.  The team includes Kevin Hicks, John Nghiem, Andy McAloon, David Johnston, Robert Moreau, Mike Kurantz, Gerard Senske, Jhanel Wilson, Winnie Yee, Frank Taylor, Edna Ramirez (formerly with ARS) and Rolando Flores (formerly with ARS), North Atlantic Area, Wyndmoor, PA; Jay Shetty, Gerhard Janda-Konieczny, Bob Randle (formerly), and Mian Li with Genencor International, Palo Alto, CA; Pat Simms, Eric Lee, Hank Bisner, Craig Shealy, John Warren, and Bill Scruggs with Osage Bio Energy, Glen Allen, VA; Wynse Brooks, Carl Griffey, Wade Thomason, and Mark Vaughn with Virginia Tech, Warsaw, VA; Dan Brann with Brann Farms, Christiansburg, VA; and Bruce Beahm with Virginia Crop Improvement Association, Mount Holly, VA.



Industrial Uses of Soybean Oil Award Winner!


Phil Sarnacke, United Soybean Board (Left) and Mike Haas, ERRC (Right)


At the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Oil Chemists' Society held in early May in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Michael Haas received the United Soybean Board's Industrial Uses of Soybean Oil Award for the conduct of research promoting new or novel industrial applications of soybean oil.  A Lead Scientist at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, PA, Dr. Haas has conducted lipid utilization research and led research teams in that subject matter area for nearly 30 years.  His research interests have ranged from the biochemical and molecular biological characterization of enzymes that can be used in the industrial processing of fats and oils to the development of new technologies for the production of biodiesel. This research as resulted in more than 100 scientific publications that advanced the state of knowledge and technology for the utilization of all lipids, including soybean oil. Congratulations to Mike!




Even Rumpelstiltskin would be impressed:


Turning straw into a valuable commodity–not gold in this case, but fuel–isn't exactly child's play, but chemical engineer Akwasi Boateng, chemist Charles Mullen, mechanical engineer Neil Goldberg, chemist Robert Moreau and research leader Kevin Hicks at our ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., have done just that, using a process called "fast pyrolysis" to produce energy-rich bio-oil from barley straw, hulls and dried distillers grains.  (12/21)




Congratulations Dr. Robert Moreau!



Dr. Robert Moreau has been nominated by the Office of the Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, ARS/USDA, as the U.S. Alternate Delegate to the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s Committee on Fats and Oils.  We are happy to report that the Codex Policy Committee approved Dr. Moreau’s nomination.   The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. The main purposes of this Programme are protecting health of the consumers and ensuring fair trade practices in the food trade, and promoting coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations.  Dr. Moreau will initially work with the committee to develop standards for edible oils such as olive oil.  We congratulate Dr. Moreau on this important international appointment.




New Fuels from an Ancient Crop

Chemical engineer Akwasi Boateng (right) and mechanical engineer Neil Goldberg (center) adjust pyrolysis process conditions while chemist Charles Mullen (left) loads the reactor with bioenergy feedstock.

Barley has been cultivated for thousands of years, yet it doesn’t always make the list when energy experts discuss potential biofuel crops. And bio-oil—a liquid fuel generated when heat breaks down plant matter—is still a low-profile energy alternative. But research by Agricultural Research Service scientists at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, could give a big boost to producing bio-oil from barley feedstocks.

Read all about it in the November 2010 Agriculture Research Magazine!



Butter Holds the Secret to the Latest Biodiesel Fuel


Butter is not the fuel of the future, but it is possible to churn perfectly good diesel fuel out of it.

“It was something we wanted to show could be done,” said Michael J. Haas, a research biochemist at the United States Department of Agriculture.

“It’s quirky,” he acknowledged of the dairy-to-diesel research, which was published in June in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The impetus was an 800-pound sculpture of Benjamin Franklin and the Liberty Bell. Each year the Pennsylvania Farm Show, held in Harrisburg, commissions a masterpiece made out of butter. In 2007, the organizers solicited suggestions for what to do with the work after the farm show ended.

Click here to read all about it!


Sustainable Corn Production Supports Advanced Biofuel Feedstocks

Researchers have found a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and environmentally sustainable method to use corn stover for generating an energy-rich oil called “bio-oil” and for making biochar to enrich soils and sequester carbon. The team used fast pyrolysis to transform corn stover and cobs into bio-oil and biochar. They found that the bio-oil captured 70 percent of the total energy input, and the energy density of the bio-oil was 5 to 16 times that of the feedstock. This suggests it could be more cost effective to produce bio-oil through a distributed network of small pyrolyzers and then transport the crude bio-oil to central refining plants to make “green gasoline” or “green diesel,” rather than transporting bulky stover to a large centralized cellulosic ethanol plant. About 18 percent of the feedstock was also converted into biochar, which contains most of the mineral nutrients in the corn residues. Amending soils with this biochar would return those nutrients to the soil, reduce leaching of other nutrients, help build soil organic matter, and sequester carbon.

Charles Mullen, USDA-ARS Sustainable Biofuels and Co-Products, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania; (215) 836-6916.


2010 North Atlantic Area Early Career Scientist of the Year

Dr. Helen Ngo is a Research Chemist in the Sustainable Biofuels and Co-Products Research Unit.  She is being recognized for her outstanding research in the development of novel catalysts and catalytic processes for the conversion of fats and oils into bio-based products and biofuels.  With this recognition, Dr. Ngo becomes the NAA's nominee for 2010 Herbert L. Rothbart Early Career Research Scientist Award.

Congratulations Helen!


Increasing Awareness within the Oil Heating Industry

On March 18, 2010, Research Scientist Michael Haas, ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Fats, Oils and Animal Coproducts Research Unit, Wyndmoor, PA, and Robert Fireovid, ARS National Program Leader for Bioenergy, Beltsville, MD, participated in the Second National Oil Heat Industry Conference and Policy Summit, held in Washington, DC. The purpose of the meeting was to increase awareness within the oil heating industry of the advantages and the technical issues related to incorporating biobased fuels, especially biodiesel, into home heating fuels. This is an especially relevant topic in the northeastern part of the country where home heating systems using petroleum fuels are common.


Helen Ngo Wins an FEB Excellence in Government Award!

Dr. Helen Ngo of the Fats, Oils and Animal Coproducts Research Unit has received the Bronze Medal in the Technical Accomplishment (Individual) category of the 2010 Excellence in Government Awards Program sponsored by the Philadelphia Federal Executive Board.  This is well-deserved recognition of the excellent work done by Helen and her team on both the development of new catalysts for synthesizing biodiesel and the exploration of new processes for the modification of fats and oils to produce new, high value products.

Congratulations Helen!


Biodiesel Journal Highlights ERRC Biodiesel and Barley Ethanol Research in March/April Issue

Click here to read all about it!


Boosting Barley for Bioenergy

Hulled winter barley ready for harvest: Click here for photo caption.
Hulled winter barley ready for harvest.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Kevin Hicks and David Marshall want winter barley to become a prime-time player in bioenergy production.

"The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act requires production and use of 36 billion gallons of renewable transporation fuels by 2022.  Today we only make 9 billion," says Hicks.  "We see winter barley as the perfect biofeedstock for making biofuels on the East Coast."

So Hicks and others in the ARS Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, are developing new sustainable technologies to convert varieties of hulled and hull-less winter "energy" barley into fuel ethanol.  This initiative also includes Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University scientists Carl Griffey, Wynse Brooks, and Mark Vaughn, who are supervising ongoing research efforts to develop improved varieties of hulled and hull-less barley.

Click here to read all about it in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural Research Magazine! 


Sustainable Corn Production Supports Advanced Biofuel Feedstocks

By Ann Perry
November 24, 2009

Researchers worldwide are trying to economically convert cellulosic biomass such as corn stover into "cellulosic ethanol." But Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have found that it might be more cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable to use corn stover for generating an energy-rich oil called bio-oil and for making biochar to enrich soils and sequester carbon.

Stover is made up of the leaves, husks, cobs and stalks of the corn plant, and could provide an abundant source of feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production after the grain is harvested. But removing stover from the field would leave soil more vulnerable to erosion, deplete plant nutrients and accelerate the loss of soil organic matter.

Several ARS scientists collaborated with the National Corn Growers Association to explore other options for using corn stover as biofuel feedstock. Chemical engineer Akwasi Boateng, chemist Charles Mullen, mechanical engineer Neil Goldberg and research leader Kevin Hicks all work at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa. Chemist Isabel Lima, who works at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La.; and soil scientist David Laird, who works at the ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa, also contributed to the study.

Click here to read the full article.


Fast Pyrolysis
ARS Researchers Team Up with Siemens to Make Bio-Based Oil

The fast pyrolysis reactor used by research scientists at the Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, PA, has a Siemens PCS7 control system, on the left of the reactor, to control pressures, temperatures, biomass weight, feed speed and the pyrolysis reaction.

Research scientists led Dr. Akwasi Boateng at the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), Eastern Regional Research Center (215-233-6493) in Wyndmoor, PA, are producing a renewable bio-oil using an innovative fast pyrolysis method that heats biomass feedstocks in the absence of oxygen.

Read the full article in this pdf file.


Farmers See Latest in Bioenergy Research at USDA Lab

Marilyn Hershey, Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

WYNDMOOR, Pa. - Montgomery County Farm Bureau farmers, energy specialists, and additional participating farmers earlier this month met here at USDA's Eastern Regional Research Center to learn about bioenergy developments and tour the research facilities.

The Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) was built in 1940 and is the largest USDA facility in the country.  According to Kevin Hicks, research leader, the center employs 290 occupants, 173 of which are award-winning scientists.  The research team is working on 24 individual research projects.

"Through research, common sense, and smart people," Hicks said the goal of "bring together food, feed, fuel, and fiber from farms," can be attained.

Click here to read the full article from Lancaster Farming.


BioEnergy BridgeTM Partnership

Bob Wallace

Robert Wallace, Executive Director of Penn State University's BioEnergy Bridge, visits ERRC to describe formation of a state-wide bioenergy research consortium and to invite ERRC to join. 

His seminar can be viewed here.


Dr. Bob Moreau Honored

Dr. Robert A. Moreau has been elected a Fellow of the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS).  Dr. Moreau is being honored for his impact on the biochemistry, analysis, and new uses of lipids and for his outstanding service to the Society.  The award is reserved for only the top 2% of AOCS members. Bob will officially receive this honor at the upcoming AOCS Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL, in May.

Congratulations Bob!


Go Native with this Promising Biofuel - and Biomedical - Crop

Guayule (K1559-3)

Perhaps the single most valuable gift the desert-dwelling guayule plant offers us is its superb natural latex. The white, rubber-rich substance, extracted and purified from this southwestern U.S. native shrub (Parthenium argentatum), is ideal for making high-quality gloves, medical devices, and other in-demand natural rubber products.

Importantly, latex from guayule (pronounced why-YOU-lee) is free of the proteins responsible for the sometimes-deadly latex allergies caused by the most widely used natural-rubber source, the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis.

But guayule may also prove to be an economical, environmentally friendly source of yet another prized commodity: energy. That energy can be made from the ground-up stems and branches, called “bagasse,” that are left after their latex has been removed.

Read all about it in the February 2009 issue of Agricultural Research Magazine.


Biofuels Engineering Process Technology


Our own John (Nhuan) Nghiem has co-authored a very important book on biofuels. 

Click here for more information.


Breaking News
Siemens Partners With USDA ARS to Improve Conversion of Second-Generation Feedstocks to Chemicals and Biofuels

Atlanta, GA - Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. and the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreegment (CRADA) that will improve the processes used to convert second generation, non-food-based, biofuel feedstocks, including perennial grasses, animal wastes and agricultural residues such as corn stover, into liquid bio-fuel intermediates, such as bio-oil.

As part of the CRADA, Logical Innovation of Richmond, VA, will work with researchers at USDA/ARS's Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, PA, to improve on pyrolysis oil production via innovative control technologies.

Click here to read more about it!


Beefing Up Barley
Research Results Have Prompted Ethanol Producers to take Another Look at This Crop


In the ethanol world barley may be corn’s poor cousin, but research efforts have made it an attractive feedstock option in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region.

Read more about the research in the October 2008 issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.



Congratulations to Dr. Akwasi Boateng on being Elected a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Dr. Akwasi Boateng has been elected a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  The Fellow grade of membership recognizes exceptional engineering achievements and contributions to the engineering professtion.  Dr. Boateng was recognized for his pioneering research on combustion and related thermochemical processing technologies.

Congratulations Dr. Boateng!!!


Biodiesel Journal Highlights ERRC Biodiesel and Barley Ethanol Research in March/April Issue

Click here to read all about it!



Congratulations to Dr. Kevin Hicks as this year's NAA Senior Research Scientist of the Year!

Dr. Hicks is honored for his "Outstanding research accomplishments during his entire research career and for outstanding leadership of a very productive ARS Research Unit for the last twenty years."


National Corn Growers Association visit ERRC

Dr. David Johnston discusses new energy saving enzymatic methods to produce starch and ethanol from corn.

Members of the National Corn Growers Association's Research and Business Development Team visited the Eastern Regional Research Center on March 20 to learn about the research being conducted to produce food and fuel (as well as feeds and fibers) from corn and corn stover.  The NCGA members were given a research tour of ERRC's state-of-the-art laboratories and pilot plants to see the latest advances in research on fuel ethanol, biodiesel, pyrolysis and gasification-derived fuels, and the many food and feed type coproducts produced during biofuels processes.  ERRC is conducting research for the sustainable production of biofuels from agricultural feedstocks so that we do not overuse food crops or harm the environment from biofuels production. 

Click here for more photos.


Fueling America - Without Petroleum

Engineers Neil Goldberg (left) and Akwasi Boateng operate a fluidized-bed thermochemical reactor they designed and built for converting crop residues into renewable bio-oils and hydrogen fuels. (D767-1)

The demand for alternatives to petroleum-based fuels is steadily rising. 

Corn and soybeans - the deminant feedstocks for ethanol and biodiesel production in the United States - grow well in the central regions of the country.  But are these the only available sources?  What options exist for U.S. growers in other regions?  How can corn and soybean feedstocks be improved?

Scientist at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, are answering these and other questions about renewable fuels production.  Their research focuses on four major areas:  biodiesel, ethanol, thermochemical processes, and cost analysis.

"For years, ERRC has been a committed participant in alternative fuels research," says center director John Cherry. "This is a particularly exciting time, because so much of our research work is being adopted and used by industry." 

Read more about the research in the April 2007 issue of Agricultural Research Magazine.


CCSE Receives the Outstanding Research Effort Award


On December 4, 2007, members of ERRC's Crop Conversion Science & Engineering Research Unit received an Outstanding Research Effort award from Archer Daniels Midland Company to celebrate the successful conclusion of a three year CRADA entitled "Biomass Research and Development for the Production of Fuels, Chemicals, and Improved Cattle Feed".  Pictured are (from left) Mr. Andrew McAloon, Senior Cost Engineer, ERRC; Dr. Michael Cecava, Director, Feed Technology Research, ADM Research; Dr. Charles Abbas, Director of Yeast and Renewables Research, ADM; Dr. Frank Taylor, Research Chemical Engineer and Project PI, ERRC; Dr. Kyle Beery, Senior Process Engineer, ADM Research; Dr. Kevin Hicks, Research Leader, ERRC; Ms. Jhanel Wilson, Chemical Engineer, ERRC.  Not pictured:  Dr. Tae Hyun Kim, Research Assoicate, present address, Iowa State University; Dr. Rolando Flores, Research Agricultural Engineer, present address, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.


ARS Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist of the Year for 2005

David Johnston: Click to download 300-dpi image in .zip format

David Johnston —
Phone modem | Broadband
News release (2/7/06)
Contact information and research details

ARS presented awards to eight "Early Career Scientists of the Year" who have earned their doctorates within the past decade and have been with the agency for seven years or less. The highest of these honors is the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist of the Year, which for 2005 was awarded to David Johnston, a research food technologist with the ARS Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit in Wyndmoor, Pa.

Johnston was honored for developing novel, environmentally sustainable biochemical and engineering processes that are improving the way corn is processed into foods and fuels around the world. He has been nominated for inclusion in the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. (More about Johnston's research)


Pectin Extraction from Citrus and Sugar Beets
Low-Value Pectin's a Natural for Making High-Value Products

Chemists Marshall L. Fishman (left) and Hoa K. Chau prepare orange peels for flash extraction of pectin using microwave heating under pressure. (D702-1)

At ARS's Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, researchers in the Crop Conversion Science and engineering Research Unit are at work on pectin, a polysaccharide component in the cell walls of fruits and vegetables.

Polysaccharides are polymers made up of many simple carbohydrates (sugars) linked together into long, continuous molecules.  Pectin is currently valued for use as a gelling and thickening agent, beverage stabilizer, and fat substitute.. 

Read more about the research in the February 2007 issue of Agricultural Research Magazine.


New Varieties and Techniques
Make Barley Better For Fuel and Food

Chemist Robert Moreau (left) and biologist Mike Powell prepare samples to analyze edible oils and nutraceuticals in barley fractions using HPLC-MS methods.

New varieties of barley could help solve two national problems: energy dependence and obesity. That’s because some parts of barley are excellent for making fuel ethanol, while other parts are nutritious and naturally low in calories.

High starch content is needed to produce ethanol, while soluble fibers such as beta-glucan and other types of fiber have been found to possess health benefits for people. Now scientists are developing ways to maximize the benefits found in some special barley varieties.

Researchers at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, want to reduce the cost of fuel ethanol and make it available nationwide. Most ethanol production facilities use corn as starting material, or “feedstock,” and not surprisingly, they’re located in the Corn Belt, not on the East and West Coasts, where demand for fuel ethanol is increasing. It’s too costly for most coastal states to ship corn from the Midwest to a local ethanol plant, so it makes sense for these “corn-deficient” states to use locally grown grains as alternatives. Barley, which grows well in these regions, may be the answer—once a couple of problems are solved.

Read more about the research in the July 2005 issue of Agricultural Research Magazine.


Last Modified: 1/4/2016