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David Sparks Ph.d Grindelia Squarosa
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: January 02, 2018

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A fabulous crop for arid land. So you have a piece of land that rarely gets rain. It's rocky and as far as you are concerned, pretty much useless. Hold your horses. I've found gum weed, or, more properly, grindelia squarosa and it grows prolifically in the semi-arid lands of Nevada. Here is Dr. Glenn Miller from University of Nevada, Reno.

The final biofuel product from the chemical engineering process can produce up to 122 gallons per acre on a biennial basis on the semi-arid lands of Nevada. The crops would require minimum inputs of nutrients and water and have the potential to be converted into jet fuel, which has garnered the interest from the military – the largest fuel consumer in the United States. Miller said the U.S. Navy is interested in using the biofuel as jet fuel. The project received $500,000 in grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and has the potential to supply up to 20 percent of fuel demand for the military.

“It is estimated that if even 10 percent of sagebrush-covered lands in Nevada are used to grow gumweed for aviation biofuels, 400 to 600 million gallons per year of jet biofuels could be produced,” Hongfei Lin, a collaborator from the College of Engineering, said. “That’s definitely incredible. There’s lots of potential.”

Lin, a professor of chemical and materials engineering is working on the project with Miller to identify a catalyst that can be used to convert biomass into fuel using an unconventional approach to biofuel production. Instead of adding hydrogen to biomass, Lin is exploring a more cost-effective manner using an oxidation process. The primary resource for diesel fuel is soy beans and ethanol for corn which are always in direct competition with food.”

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