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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS process can convert human-generated waste into fuel in space

Topic(s): Biofuels, Environment, New Technology, Research

Pratap Pullammanappallil poses in his lab next to an anaerobic digester, which turns human waste into rocket fuel on October, 24, 2014.

See cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Human waste may have a new use: sending NASA spacecraft from the moon back to Earth.

Until now, the waste has been collected to burn up on re-entry. What’s more, like so many other things developed for the space program, the process could well turn up on Earth, said Pratap Pullammanappallil, a University of Florida associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

“It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel,” Pullammanappallil said.

In 2006, NASA began making plans to build an inhabited facility on the moon’s surface between 2019 and 2024. As part of NASA’s moon-base goal, the agency wanted to reduce the weight of spacecraft retuning to Earth. Historically, waste generated during spaceflight would not be used further. NASA stores it in containers until it’s loaded into space cargo vehicles that burn as they pass back through the Earth’s atmosphere. For future long-term missions, though, it would be impractical to bring all the stored waste back to Earth.

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UF/IFAS researchers target eucalyptus as source of fuel for biomass production

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Environment, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers working to produce ethanol from plant material are taking a hard look at eucalyptus as a possible source for the clean fuel.

Joe Sagues, director of operations at the University of Florida’s Stan Mayfield Biorefinery Pilot Plant in Perry, Florida, and Ismael Uriel Nieves, project director at the plant, recently switched the focus of their lab-scale research from sugarcane and sorghum to eucalyptus for this study. They say the tree, most commonly associated with Australia and food for koalas, is a fast-growing hardwood that is easier to store and transport. (more …)

Two new citrus cultivars among 13 approved by UF/IFAS

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biofuels, Citrus, Cultivars

For photos, please contact Brad Buck at bradbuck@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Two new citrus cultivars with high industry interest are among 13 recently approved for release by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The UF/IFAS Cultivar Release Committee voted April 15 to release UF 711 and RBB 7-34, two new citrus cultivars. Fred Gmitter, a citrus genetics and breeding professor at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, told the panel growers are excited to field-trial the two cultivars.

UF 711 is an easy-to-peel mandarin, while RBB 7-34 is a new navel orange-like variety with much more color and flavor than ordinary Florida navels, Gmitter said. Both varieties were deemed to be good-tasting, as well.

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UF/IFAS researcher named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biofuels, IFAS, New Technology

Lonnie INgram

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— The National Academy of Inventors named as a Fellow this month Lonnie O. Ingram, a distinguished professor in the University of Florida’s microbiology and cell science department.

Academic inventors and innovators elected to the rank of NAI Fellow were nominated by their peers and it is considered a high professional distinction. NAI members chose Ingram because he has “demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society.”

“It’s an unexpected honor and I’m happy to be included among this group,” Ingram said Thursday. (more …)

Grants to help UF researchers grow pine trees faster, produce more energy

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Forestry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida researchers will use $1.45 million in federal grants to develop trait-prediction models and accelerate the growth of loblolly pine trees to produce more bioenergy.

In his grant application, UF associate professor Matias Kirst, the principal investigator for the study, said Southern pines can be used as renewable biomass for bioenergy and renewable chemicals. However, for pines to meet their potential as a bioenergy crop, researchers must develop more productive cultivars that can be efficiently converted into liquid fuels, said Kirst, who teaches in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS study finds algal cells create fat more quickly than thought, could aid biofuel research

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Biofuels, Economics, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Flasks of biofuel algae in a labortory.  Alternative energy and fuels.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Click here for high-resolution image. Caption at bottom.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many scientists see great promise in algae as a new source of oil — a sustainable, environmentally sound way to break the world’s fossil fuel dependence.

Algal lipids from microalgae are one of the best sources for biofuels – algae grow quickly, tolerate extreme weather conditions, and do not pose the same issues as biofuel crops that are grown both for fuel and food.

Many research teams in academia and private industry are struggling, however, with one vexing problem with algae as a fuel source: The conditions that promote algal growth aren’t the same as the conditions that allow the algae to create the maximum amount of oil.

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UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation sets Spring Celebration for April 5-6

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Biofuels, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, New Technology, Research

Austin Cary Memorial Forest. UF/IFAS Photo by Dawn McKinstry.

UF/IFAS file photo of Austin Cary Forest palmetto and pine, by Dawn McKinstry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation has two reasons to celebrate:

One is the annual SFRC Spring Celebration on April 5-6. Here, alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRC’s latest achievements.

The other reason: This year’s celebration includes a special milestone — groundbreaking for the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 6.

Dignitaries speaking at the groundbreaking include UF President Bernie Machen and UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne.

“This groundbreaking marks a huge step forward for the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “Thousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.”

The 7,800 square-foot building will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. It’s larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces, said Tim White, director of the School. That facility fell victim to a fire in July 2011.

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UF researchers improve process to create renewable chemicals from plants

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Xuan Wang and Lonnie Ingram

Click here for high resolution photo. Caption at bottom.

Related video.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Crops aren’t just for food, fiber and fuel. Researchers at the University of Florida are making new industrial applications possible for them as well.

They’ve developed a method to turn sugarcane bagasse — the crushed-stalk waste product of sugar production — into succinic acid that can be used to make pharmaceuticals, protective coatings and compostable bags.

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UF-led research team selected for $125 million joint U.S.-India energy project

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Crops, Environment, New Technology

Cutline at bottom. Click here for high resolution image.

A University of Florida-led research team has been selected to participate in a five-year, $125 million energy project involving the United States and India, U.S. Department of Energy officials have announced.

Known as the Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center, or JCERDC, the project is aimed at reducing energy consumption, cutting dependence on petroleum products and increasing use of renewable fuels.

The UF-led team will develop biofuels derived from inedible plant material. Two other research teams, led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will focus on solar energy and energy efficiency of buildings, respectively.

Total funding for the biofuels project is about $21 million, including about $2.7 million in federal funding destined for UF.

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UF researchers develop plant-based technology that helps biofuels, may fight cancer

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biofuels, Conservation, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, New Technology, Research

Lignin nanotubes

Image of synthesized lignin nanotubes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the first time, University of Florida researchers have developed plant-based technology that could reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and may also help treat cancer.

Known as lignin nanotubes, these cylindrical containers are smaller than viruses and tiny enough to travel through the body, carrying cancer patients’ medicine. They can be created in biorefineries from lignin, a plant substance that is a byproduct of bioethanol production.

Bioethanol is a renewable alternative to fossil fuel created by fermenting sugar — such as that from sugarcane and sweet sorghum juices, stalks and stems.

“We’re looking at biomedical applications whereby these nanotubes are injected in the body,” said Wilfred Vermerris, an associate professor in UF’s agronomy department and Genetics Institute who was part of the team that developed the nanotubes. The team’s work is described in a March issue of the journal Nanotechnology.

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