The Energy Biosciences Institute was created to address one of the 21st century's greatest challenges, finding a technological solution to the problems associated with climate change, global warming, and the rising price and diminishing supplies of fossil fuels.
Global energy company BP assembled a unique partnership, combining the world-renowned scientific expertise of three public research institutions with the private business acumen of an international leader in energy production. UC Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have come together with BP in a research quest to find new energy resources.
The Institute was born in 2007, embarking on a 10-year, $500 million mission to help the world transition from a carbon-based fuel strategy to one that incorporates sustainable, environmentally friendly fuels into a balanced portfolio of responsible, renewable energy sources.
More than 300 researchers, many of whom are part of or associated with Plant & Microbial Biology and the College of Natural Resources, are engaged in a journey that begins at the birth of bioenergy's life cycle -- at the feedstocks, where plant breeding and sustainable growth and harvest are critical to maximizing cellulosic biofuel production. The search continues through biomass depolymerization, where understanding the critical breakdown of cellulose into sugars holds the key to efficient production of biofuels. Finding a more effective fermentation process is also important to contain the costs of producing fuels.
The EBI also seeks to understand the impacts of the nascent industry on society -- on the global economy and the environment -- and the potential effects on food crops and land use. And beyond biomass, the EBI is engaged in research into enhanced oil recovery, using microbes to release and transform hydrocarbons and reduce environmental contamination.
EBI is directed by PMB faculty member Chris R. Somerville.