Bioprocessing lab plans expansion on campus

The fourth floor of the animal science building is currently home to ethanol research labs that will move to a new $20 million building near the corner of Pennsylvania and Goodwin avenues after groundbreaking in early spring.

The projects being conducted at the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research’s (CABER) labs will move to the new state-funded building called the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory. Completion is expected about 18 months following groundbreaking.

The state’s Capital Development Board designated more than $20 million in May to the construction of the lab, according to the ACES website. The facility is designed to make it easy for companies to move their equipment in and out of the building, said Hans Blaschek, director of CABER and professor emeritus in the department of food science and human nutrition.

“The building will allow companies to come in, scale up their particular project and have access to all different facilities,” Blaschek said. “We have figured out physical protection for companies in the building to ensure their information is kept secret to whatever extent they want.”

So far, DuPont and Novozymes have signed on as affiliate companies, but Blaschek said he expects many more to come once the building has been built. He said the new facilities and the ability to conduct projects on a larger, industrial scale, plus being surrounded by corn, will help.

“It’s not only projects with converting biomass to fuels,” Blaschek said. “There’s been a push to get back to natural food colorants extracted from food like corn and soybeans.”

He explained the controversy of the negative impacts of unnatural dye on children, such as the dye in maraschino cherries. In the new building, companies can experiment with natural food colorant extraction.

Currently, professional science master’s graduate students take two classes through CABER professors.

One is about the broad scope of bioenergy systems, and one class focuses on professional speakers in the industry discussing topics like developing biodiesel with ethanol and the industry policy issues with corn ethanol.

Eric Anderson, CABER visiting teaching associate, said with the new building, CABER would help the investigators collaborate and hold a role in running it.

“There’s going to be much more lab space,” Anderson said. “Hopefully to be used by industry as well as academia.”

Claire can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the name of the center is Center for BioEnergy Research. The article should have stated that the name of the center is Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research. The previous version also incorrectly stated that the building will be located at the corner of Pennsylvania and Goodwin avenues. The article should have stated that the building will be located near the corner of Pennsylvania and Goodwin avenues. The previous version also incorrectly stated that the basement of the animal science building is currently home to the ethanol research labs. The article should have stated that the ethanol research labs are on the fourth floor of the animal science building. The Daily Illini regrets these errors.