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University Relations

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May 19, 2009
Contact: Carey Novak, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, (515) 290-1977; or Kevin Boatright, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, (785) 550-2718.

Global agribusiness giant partners with KU on new biorefining research

LAWRENCE — A new, three-year industry research collaboration at the University of Kansas will explore ways to use renewable resources in fuels, key chemicals, plastics and other common materials. Goals of the project include the development of products that can reduce petroleum consumption and develop new markets for agriculture.

Earlier today, the Kansas Bioscience Authority gave final approval for an investment of $1.2 million that will match a $1.2 million commitment from Archer Daniels Midland for work with KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis. The project expands upon research that’s been under way for the past four years at KU into biorefining, the use of biomass to produce feedstock for a variety of industrial processes.

“We are pleased that ADM, a global leader in biorefining research and innovation, has chosen to partner with CEBC,” said Bala Subramaniam, director of the center. “The project is an excellent match for our faculty expertise and research facilities and supports the KBA’s vision of a thriving biorefining industry in Kansas.”

The Archer Daniels Midland research will focus on multiple areas: converting carbohydrate feedstock into a form of engineering plastic known as BDO; converting vegetable oils to lubricants and other industrial chemicals; eliminating the need for a petrochemical that’s used in food and beverage packaging; and the development of biofuels.

In addition to the $2.4 million from Archer Daniels Midland and the Kansas Bioscience Authority, KU is providing $334,000 of in-kind support for the project. Subramaniam, the Dan F. Servey Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, will work with a counterpart at Archer Daniels Midland to provide overall project management.

“It’s exciting to be working with a company like ADM, and it’s an important project for Kansas and the country,” said Carey Novak, KU’s director of business and industry outreach. “This is one of our largest industry collaborations ever, and it may lead to even bigger projects in the future.”

The project finalized today builds upon the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s approval in March of the Kansas Bioenergy and Biorefining Center of Innovation, a multiyear program involving the research and development strengths of both KU and Kansas State University. As with other Kansas Bioscience Authority initiatives, the ultimate focus of the center is commercial viability and the growth of the bioscience industry in Kansas.

Archer Daniels Midland is headquartered in Decatur, Ill., and employs more than 27,000 people worldwide, including more than 500 in Kansas at plants and other facilities in Abilene, Arkansas City, Dodge City, Salina and Overland Park. Sales in 2008 totaled nearly $70 billion.

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