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Agricultural Research Service Lab Promotes New Technologies / August 31, 2004 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Photo: Super Slurper. Link to photo information
A flake of Super Slurper absorbs nearly 2,000 times its own weight in moisture. Click the image for more information about it.

Agricultural Research Service Lab Promotes New Technologies

By Jan Suszkiw
August 31, 2004

PEORIA, ILL., Aug. 31, 2004--Innovative technologies that help create value-added markets for corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops are being showcased here today at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) as part of a celebration of the renovation of the center's north wing. NCAUR is one of four regional research centers operated across the country by the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

The approximately $20-million renovation of the north wing, which houses a 65,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art pilot plant, "embodies NCAUR's commitment to technology transfer and is a key step in moving new inventions from the laboratory bench into the hands of consumers through partnerships with private industry," said Peter Johnsen, the Peoria center's director.

Speakers at today's event include Johnsen, Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois, and Rick Brenner, deputy assistant administrator of ARS' Office of Technology Transfer.

A highlight of the day's activities will be the announcement of new partnerships to help commercialize NCAUR technologies. One such partner, Absorbent Technologies, Inc., of Beaverton, Ore., is commercializing an innovative product to grow crops using less water. The product, a starch-based polymer, is an improvement on NCAUR's original "Super Slurper" technology, which is already used in numerous consumer goods.

Today's event also includes displays of a dozen technologies that are available for licensing, including bio-based lubricants and greases, bio-based plastics that conduct electricity, and diagnostic methods for rapidly detecting pathogens. NCAUR scientists are available at the displays to discuss the technologies they've developed.

In the center's north wing and pilot plant, NCAUR scientists and their industrial collaborators use two-story, flexible-design bays to carry out scale-up research and proof-of-concept studies to commercialize the center's inventions. Current projects include research on new food- and oil-processing methods, reactive extrusion and fermentation. Under unique legislative authority, materials produced in the pilot plant can be sold by industrial partners to evaluate market potential, Johnsen noted.

During a special presentation this afternoon, three NCAUR scientists will give 10-minute talks about their inventions, as well as answer questions from a panel of business executives and venture capitalists.

Today's invited guests include research and commercialization partners, business and agricultural leaders and public officials.

"NCAUR chose to commemorate the north wing renovation as part of ARS' year-long 50th anniversary celebration to reinforce the agency's anniversary theme of 'A Proud Past--A Promising Future,'" said Johnsen.

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Last Modified: 8/31/2004
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