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Making corn stover into jet fuel — UND to lead research efforts to commercialize it

Courtesy UND

Making corn stover into jet fuel: That’s the focus of a four-year, $3.75 million Department of Energy research project.

And UND will lead it.

A team of scientists and engineers with UND’s SUNRISE research center will work on the project. SUNRISE stands for “Sustainable Energy Research Initiative and Supporting Education.”

Chemical engineering professor Wayne Seames with the UND College of Engineering and Mines said this project is a little different than normal research projects at UND. He said a catalyst researcher at Washington State University was working with a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO.

"They invented this great catalytic reaction, to take a portion of corn stover, and turn it into compounds they think would make a jet fuel," Seames said.

Seames said those researchers didn't know how to take it to the next stage.

"So they reached out to us, to see if we would work with them on taking what they have done on a small scale and scaling that up to a size to allow an investor to decide whether this is something they may want to try to put into the commercial marketplace," Seames said.

Seames said farmers will tell you they need about 70 percent of corn stover on the field for soil renewal – leaving about 30 percent of the stover to use for something like this.

"You can imagine with all the corn we grow in North Dakota alone that there will be lots of corn stover that currently has no use," Seames said. "We can now turn it into something useful."

The researchers will also be using student help from UND.

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