The National Laboratory of Science and Technology of Bioethanol (CTBE), just inaugurated in the city of Campinas (State of S. Paulo), on January 22, 2010, will be the coordination center for researches on the production of bioethanol, from the plantation to the development of automotive motors.
CTBE is born from a study conceived in 2007 about the challenges for the production of ethanol in Brazil for the next 15 years. One of its targets was to answer if it would be possible to multiply by ten - but in a sustainable way - the current production of ethanol, until 2015. The future amount would be equal to 250 billion annual liters, which should be enough to replace 10% of the gasoline consumed in the planet.
“Many of the identified obstacles demand investments in science to solve them”, says Marco Aurélio Pinheiro Lima, director of the new laboratory.
CTBE will gather the efforts of public research institutions and private laboratories from the whole country that already work on bioethanol. This wide effort is also the aim of the Research program in Bioenergy (BIOEN) financed by The State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).
The BIOEN Program will support the laboratory infrastructure, explains Prof. Marcos Buckeridge, at University of São Paulo, who is both scientific director of CTBE and coordinator of BIOEN Biomass division.
“We are creating a Brazilian system for bioenergies that will gather the researches of an elite of specialists that are dispersed throughout the country”, announces Buckeridge.
The laboratory has counted on investments of R$ 69 million, and is already developing researches, many of them with the support of Fapesp, that already invested about of R$ 2 million. Currently with 60 employees, CTBE should hire 170 until 2013.
At the inauguration, the new institution has already signed cooperation agreements with the he Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), the London Imperial College (UK) and the Lund University (Sweden).
The efforts of the research of CTBE will be concentrated in the development of the ethanol of second generation, produced from sugarcane cellulose. Although corresponding to two thirds of the available biomass, sugarcane pulp and straw are not yet enough used.
Buckeridge explains that breaking the cellulose wall is at the core of research at CTBE. The enzymes that may help in the biological decomposition will thoroughly be studied at the laboratories.
CTBE is neighbour to two other laboratories in Campinas: the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS) and the National Biosciences Laboratory (LNBio). “Be close to these facilities gives us access to cutting edge resources such as the Synchrotron Light ring that helps to unmask the structure of the enzymes, and to specific bioinformatics software developed by LNBio”, Buckeridge says. The bioethanol researchers will be able to test their results under industrial structure at CTBE, thus adapting the academic research to the needs of industry.
LNBio, LNLS and CTBE will be coordinated by an the recently-created the National Center of Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), under the direction of physicist Rogério Cerqueira Leite.
Sugarcane direct planting
Under the agreement with Embrapa, the two institutions will together invest in advanced technology, to guarantee the Brazilian production of sugarcane ethanol. The test for this cooperation will be the direct planting of sugarcane, from North to South of Brazil, believes Geraldo Eugênio de França, Embrapa’s CEO.
Direct planting is a technique of agricultural handling, used mainly in cereals fields, which spares the preparation of soil in the planting. Embrapa already works since more than three decades with this technique that reduces costs, keeps the soil nutrients and uses water in a more rational way.
The Agricultural Program of CTBE will develop studies on agricultural machines and low impact crop mechanization. Sugarcane diseases and reaction to herbicides in humid soil, as in direct planting situation, will be also submitted to research.
CTBE and Embrapa will study the impacts of the direct planting in cane in the most diverse climates, soils, rain volume and field administration. The first experiments should happen in plantations in the State of São Paulo. Then similar tests will be accomplished in other producing areas, such as the Cerrado and the coastal boards of the Northeast.
The collaboration between CTBE and Embrapa may continue in the production of enzymes for the hydrolysis of the cane pulp, biochemistry and physiology of plants, fixation of nitrogen and absorption of CO2 by the plant.
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