The mission of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center is grand, but simply stated: to perform the basic research that generates technology to convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other advanced biofuels.
Who We Are
The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) is led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with Michigan State University as a major partner, and is one of three bioenergy research centers established in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Our member institutions include a DOE National Laboratory, universities and a biotechnology company.
With more than 400 scientists, students and staff representing a wide array of disciplines from microbiology to economics and engineering, the GLBRC’s collaborative spirit illustrates how cooperation among academic, federal and private sector researchers can generate an entity that is greater than the sum of its parts.
At UW-Madison, GLBRC is housed within the Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI), the university's catalytic home of energy research, education and outreach. Created in 2006, WEI provides an objective forum for the exchange of ideas on energy issues, and prepares the energy leaders of today and tomorrow. With more than 100 affiliated faculty from numerous disciplines, WEI shares GLBRC’s emphasis on creating collaborative energy projects and research opportunities.
“Kick-starting a new mode of collaboration for federally-funded basic research, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center has been an excellent example of the success that is possible when a diverse team is assembled around a central mission and given resources to innovate.”
Michael Corradini, Former Director, Wisconsin Energy Institute
What We Do
GLBRC is working to meet the nation’s need for a comprehensive suite of clean energy technologies, including next generation and drop-in fuels that can be used in today’s engines. The GLBRC's research supports the development of a robust pipeline from biomass production through pretreatment and final conversion to fuel, with sustainability providing a unifying theme.
In addition to basic research and industry engagement, the GLBRC has a strong Education and Outreach program that broadens public understanding of current issues in bioenergy, provides professional development resources for educators, and learning opportunities for tomorrow’s energy leaders.
In the spring of 2013, DOE renewed the GLBRC's funding for another five years. As GLBRC leaders enter a second funding cycle, their goal is to continue integrating the center’s expertise in support of two key knowledge gaps: sustainable production of crops containing desirable biofuel traits and efficient conversion of biomass into fuels and chemicals.
The Bioenergy Opportunity
The critical need to develop and implement sustainable energy technologies creates both a challenge and an opportunity. By generating energy from renewable organic matter, bioenergy has the potential to help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, and national security.
Since the Renewable Fuel Standard mandated in 2007 that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be produced by 2022—with 16 billion coming from cellulosic feedstocks—renewable energy consumption and production in the U.S. has been rising. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), by 2012, about 5 percent of energy used in the U.S. came from biomass fuels, 44 percent of which was biofuel—primarily ethanol.
Today, nearly all gasoline sold in the U.S. contains some ethanol, most of which is made from corn grain. The DOE is now advancing the production of ethanol from cellulosic biomass—such as switchgrass, corn stover and mixed prairie grasses—which have the advantage over grain ethanol of not competing with food crops, and of thriving with less cultivation, fertilizer and pesticides.
At the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, we develop the basic science that will form the foundation of new biofuels technologies using a “field to pump approach” that evaluates energy efficiency, sustainability, and economic viability. With this approach, and with extensive collaboration across our four research areas, the GLBRC is working to turn today's energy challenges into energy opportunities for the future.
Our Members & Affiliates
The only DOE Bioenergy Research Center (BRC) based at an academic institution, the GLBRC is guided by an educational philosophy that emphasizes understanding the complex relationships among energy production, technology, economics, society and the environment. By combining this philosophy with a highly collaborative atmosphere and the expertise of members across the country, the GLBRC is positioned to move promising developments and technology through the biofuels pipeline more quickly.
Participating member institutions span academia, government and industry, demonstrating the collaborative spirit that lies at the core of the GLBRC's mission. A summary of institutions that have participated as GLBRC members to date is presented here.
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Michigan State University
- Illinois State University
- Pacific Northwest National Lab
- Texas A&M University
- University of British Columbia
- University of Maryland
- University of New Hampshire
Advances resulting from the BRCs will provide the knowledge needed to develop new biobased products, methods, and tools that the emerging biofuel industry can use. All three centers are working collaboratively to develop a new generation of biofuels. In addition to the GLBRC, the other two DOE Bioenergy Research Centers are:
The BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) is led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California.