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Biofuel Research Has Potential for Alternative Energy and the Economy University News
For release: November 13, 2009

For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843

U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen
U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen

U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen announced a $500,000 grant to the University of Memphis to continue research into a biofuel initiative that would make it easier to transform common waste materials into fuel for internal combustion engines.

The grant will fund the research of the UofM’s Center for Biofuel Energy and Sustainable Technologies (BEST) and the work of Dr. Srikant Gir, mechanical engineering professor with the Herff College of Engineering at the University.  Gir has already developed a prototype version of his converter, which he demonstrated today in his lab for Rep. Cohen and state and university leaders.

“By taking what some consider waste and refining it into fuel, the University of Memphis is leading the way when it comes to using green technologies to develop sustainable sources of energy,” Cohen said. “I commend the researchers for their incredible work, and I was pleased to secure this infusion of federal funding on their behalf.”

Gir envisions similar devices becoming more and more common as the technology becomes more prevalent, as the work force learns how to build and operate them, and as businesses and the public become more and more accustomed to the benefits, both environmental and economic, of recycling common materials that were formerly considered waste and disposed of as such.

Gir believes that with a mature biofuel system in place, the world’s long-time dependence on petroleum-based fuels could be drastically changed. He says biomass (the inclusive term for the materials that a biofuel generator processes) is present in various forms all across the nation and the world. Such materials could be converted to energy on a local level, rather than a national one, eliminating the need for a huge infrastructure that has traditionally been needed to move fuels from production site to final customer.

Gir also says localizing the fuel and energy-production businesses will bring economic benefits, for example, spin-off businesses created to meet the needs of the new production systems. He says much of the economic progress will be at the local levels, keeping money at home, rather than paying distant corporations or other nations.

At present, the University is partnering with the state and national governments, with other colleges, and with businesses and corporations to develop and refine the technology, the training, and the infrastructure needed to make such a biofuel-based energy system work. The half-million-dollar grant from the U.S. government will be used to develop second-generation biofuel micro-refineries.

For more information, call Dr. Gir at 901-438-6078.

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