Harpenden research centre to be at forefront of plant fuel revolution

PUBLISHED: 15:19 28 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:54 06 May 2010

ROTHAMSTED is to be at the forefront of research into replacing petrol in cars with fuels derived from plants. The Harpenden research institute is one of six research hubs to benefit from this week s announcement of the biggest-ever single UK public inve

ROTHAMSTED is to be at the forefront of research into replacing petrol in cars with fuels derived from plants.

The Harpenden research institute is one of six research hubs to benefit from this week's announcement of the biggest-ever single UK public investment in bioenergy research from the main funding agency for the biosciences, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

Rothamsted is part of the £27 million BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC) which has been launched to provide the science to underpin and develop the emerging UK sustainable bioenergy sector which aims to replace petrol with fuels derived from plants.

The others are at the Universities of Cambridge, Dundee and York with two at the University of Nottingham. Another seven universities and institutes are involved as well as 15 industrial partners which are contributing around £7 million of the funding.

Sustainable bioenergy offers the potential to provide a significant source of clean low carbon and secure energy as well as generate thousands of new "green-collar" jobs.

It uses non-food crops, such as willow, industrial and agricultural waste products and inedible parts of crops, such as straw.

The Rothamsted hub is called the BSBEC Perennial Bioenergy Crops programme and will use the National Willows Collection which is based there.

It is a repository for willow germplasm, set up in the 1920s as a way of conserving varieties which were being lost when rural crafts such as basket and hurdle-making declined.

Dr Angela Karp, director of the Rothamsted Centre for Bioenergy and Climate Change, said: "It is wonderful to see some of this amazing willow diversity being exploited to improve the yield and quality of this important bioenergy crop.


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