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[Cornell University]


- Biochemical Energy

All living things do mechanical work. Microbes devour food, platforms bend toward the sun, and animals move around. Organisms also do the chemical work of synthesizing biomolecules needed for energy storage, growth, and repair. Even single cells function when molecules and ions cross cell membranes. 

Organisms manipulate biochemical energy to build the materials they need. This type of energy is usually stored in glucose, sucrose, cellulose, carbohydrates, glucose and protein. The photosynthesis mechanism allows plants and microorganisms to produce these fuels. To function, biological cells have specific mechanisms for synthesizing enzymes. These are complex supramolecular structures with metal active centers that catalyze specific chemical reactions. 

One of the key processes in living systems is metabolism. To work consistently, chemical reactions in living systems are organized in specific pathways or metabolic sequences. Most substances in cells are chains of proteins encoded in structural genes that direct reaction pathways. Heat is generated during metabolism, a dissipative process associated with chemical reactions driven by energetic chemicals. The materials produced during the synthesis are highly organized and have low entropy. When needed, cells are also able to break down these compounds in a process called catabolism.


- Why Cellulosic Biofuels?

Ethanol is currently the world's preferred transportation biofuel, mainly from corn and sugarcane. The Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) believes that food and fuel should not be an either-or proposition, so it focuses on the sugar-rich properties of non-edible plants such as grasses, trees and energy vines. Trying to undo what nature has perfected over millions of years isn't simple -- deconstructing the rigid and resistant parts of plant infrastructure and breaking down the main components of plant cells, cellulose and hemicellulose, into their constituent parts. Complex carbohydrates are removed and elements rearranged to form the combustible liquids that power our cars and light trucks. 

The challenges don't stop there. The EBI wants to know what social, economic and environmental impacts this approach will have on a community and a country. Data collection and modeling are used to perform a complete analysis of the biofuel's entire life cycle from site to tank. It is not enough to make biofuel; it must be made and used responsibly. Of the total EBI investment in bioenergy research, 20% goes to the social and environmental impact of biofuels. This differentiates the institute from all comparable centers in the field. 

The Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) is the world's largest public-private partnership of its kind to apply advanced biological knowledge to the field of bioenergy development. 



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