Grant to Fund New Biomass Conversion Process

PureVision Technology announced a grant award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to evaluate a new method of producing clean fiber from biomass and waste materials. Using the new approach, PureVision seeks to convert waste agricultural residues such as wheat straw into usable pulp and paper products. The wheat straw recovery project is the second PureVision Technology proposal funded by NSF through the 2003 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program.

Fort Lupton, Colorado, July 29, 2003 [] PureVision is investigating using wheat straw and other biomass wastes as the feedstock to produce fiber, fuel, and industrial chemicals. Today most agricultural residues have very little or no commercial value and are either left in the field or discarded during processing. It is estimated that there are over 150 million tons per year of agricultural residues including corn stover (corn husks and stalks) and sugarcane bagasse (stalks) that could be used to produce ethanol and other bio-products. Ultimately this NSF-funded project may open up commercial opportunities to process wheat straw and other biomass materials into a variety of alternative fiber products. Benefits of commercializing the PureVision process include economic utilization of waste streams, minimal environmental impacts, opportunities for production of energy crops from marginal lands, energy independence, rural economic development, and enhanced national security, said the company. Dr. Dick Wingerson, PureVision’s chief scientist, is directing the 6-month project, titled “Wheat Straw to Purified Cellulose Fiber utilizing Novel Reactive Fractionation Process.” The PureVision project is being undertaken with the assistance of three other research organizations. The Western Research Institute (WRI) will process wheat straw into fiber using PureVision’s bench-scale equipment at their Bioprocessing Laboratory in Laramie, Wyoming. WRI is an organization that is currently working with PureVision on several different programs to advance PureVision’s biomass recovery technology. WRI is a technology development center serving private clients, industry, and government with expertise in energy, environment, and highway materials. Fiber characteristic assessments of samples produced at WRI will be conducted at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, Washington. Scientists at the UW College of Forest Resources will oversee the research, which will include determining fiber characteristics of wheat straw for pulp and other markets. Once the UW fiber characterizations are complete, Engineered Fibers Technology (EFT) of Shelton, Connecticut, will complete an assessment of markets and potential applications for the wheat straw pulps obtained from the PureVision process. EFT will identify potential fiber markets including various paper and non-paper applications such as synthetically processed cellulose pulp. The NSF award to PureVision in the amount of US$99,625 is funded through the NSF Small Business Innovative Research program (SBIR). The National Science Foundation (NSF) promotes and advances scientific progress in the United States through the SBIR program by competitively awarding grants and cooperative agreements for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. The wheat straw recovery project is the second PureVision proposal funded by NSF this year. The first NSF award to PureVision that was announced last month is to undertake advanced research into producing bio-products from biomass and waste materials. The new approach being pursued by PureVision seeks to reduce the cost of converting biomass materials into sugars from which many usable products can be produced including ethanol. The 6-month project, titled “Two-stage Enzymatic Hydrolysis and Bioconversion of Pretreated Biomass for Production of Fuel Ethanol and Industrial Chemicals”, began earlier in July. The PureVision biomass recovery invention separates the basic components of biomass from each other in a patented fractionation process analogous to refining petroleum to make hydrocarbon derivatives. Instead of refining oil, the PureVision process refines biomass (such as wood, agricultural and paper wastes) into fuel, fibers, power and sugars. The sugars are raw materials that can be used for making many industrial products, such as ethanol, bio-plastics and other chemicals. For the past ten years, PureVision Technology, a private company Based in Ft. Lupton, Colorado, has been developing waste recovery processes that use enzymes to convert the biomass into useful resources.