Mission

Modern society has created unprecedented demands for energy that are predominantly based on fossil fuels. However, there is a growing consensus that constraints on the supply of petroleum and the negative environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels require that we adopt alternative sources. These alternatives must be both renewable and environmentally sustainable. Biomass is an important alternative for both energy and chemical production that meet these requirements.

In order to help provide a solution to this crisis, the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA) at Florida A&M University has created the “FAMU BioEnergy Group”. The Group is a collaborative effort between various disciplines on Florida A&M University campus, such as Plant Sciences, Microbiology, Biological and Agricultural Systems Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Chemistry, and several more. The main goal of the “FAMU BioEnergy Group” is to tap the intellectual resources of our great institution for addressing issues of energy security, environmental sustainability and economic diversification. Two strategic areas are proposed for focused research, education and outreach activities: 1) Biofuels and 2) Bioproducts. Biofuels are liquid and gaseous transportation fuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen, made from biomass resources. Bioproducts are chemicals and materials made from biomass resources that have traditionally are made from petroleum?based resources, such as plastics, fibers and industrial chemicals.

Each of the two strategic areas has the following enabling activities for research: 1) Feedstock Development, 2) Conversion Processes, 3) System Integration, and 4) Biomass Public Policy Issue. These four enabling activities are critical to the development of newly emerging national industries for biofuels and bioproducts.

The potential for positive national and state impact is tremendous, as Florida has the most abundant biomass resources in the country. By using, environmentally damaged lands, such as closed mining sites to plant energy crops, a biomass initiative will spawn a brand new industry in Florida. Small farmers could generate new incomes by using marginal lands or thousands of acres now largely considered wastelands. Monies invested in the eradication of invasive species could be re?allocated as these plants will become substrates for microbial fermentation. Technology developed by the Group will also be transferred to our industry partners for commercialization, which will be a significant boost towards energy independence.

Economics and policy issues research priorities include 1) developing models of the circulation of currency in the local bioeconomy, 2) reviewing current policies for land use preservation and use of marginal lands 3) analyzing the regions bioindustry’s influence on the environment and on job creation.

Education priorities will include a suite of programs for Kindergarten through graduate school (K through PhD) education community. The education community includes students, teachers, guidance counselors, education researchers and education administrators. The education programs are expected to impact the future of education and industry in many positive ways. The development of innovative competitions, science modules, capacity development, web?access training programs, topical meetings and the support of scholarships, fellowships and industry internship for students and teachers will help build a strong core of future researchers, engineers and instructors in the area of biobased industries.

Outreach priorities will be geared toward farmers, landowners, processors, stake holders, advocacy groups and consumers. Priorities include enhancing public familiarity and exposure to biobased industries and sustainability concepts to create more informed producers and consumers. Activities such as holding conferences, supporting demonstration projects, providing technical information packages, provide credible criteria and data to policy makers will help optimize the transfer of information and technology for the public’s benefit.

The “FAMU BioEnergy Group” will be run under the auspices of the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA). The College currently houses several other major Centers, The Center for Biological Control, the Center for Water Quality, the Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research…etc. These Centers have been conducting research and teaching for years, and have developed a performance and accountability system, which can be adopted by the “FAMU BioEnergy Group”. In addition, existing facilities, such as the chemistry analytical laboratory, with Chromatographic equipments among others, will be at the new Group’s disposal.

By collaborating with entities, such as The Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which is a Department of Energy (DOE) facility, the Group has initiated the process for future collaborative research works. These collaborative efforts will not only raise additional funding, but they will enhance the college academic curricula where industrial inputs will be incorporated in students’ courses. These collaborations will also enhance experiential learning and internship opportunities for our students who form the pipeline for future scientists. Within the FAMU community, the Group is collaborating with CESTA extension service which serves small scale farmers in North Florida. This collaboration will be critical in our outreach efforts in the development of plants for biofuels production and in the transfer of technology to the community. In addition, the Extension Services have facilities in Gadsden County, FL., which can be used for demonstration studies, workshops and conferences.