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Cong Trinh.

Trinh’s DOE-Supported Research Could Bring Big Changes to Biofuels

Ferguson Faculty Fellow in Chemical Engineering and Associate Professor Cong Trinh has a wealth of experience researching and exploring the use of biomaterials and biosubstances including bioesters, microbial platforms, and computational biology.

Now his work has gotten a new major boost, thanks to a grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The DOE’s Office of Science has selected Trinh’s project—which is aimed at producing the next generation of biofuels—for $1.1 million in funding, beginning with an initial award of nearly $370,000. The project, Harnessing the Robust Metabolism of Bacillus coagulans for Efficient Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass Hydrolysates to Designer Bioesters, was one of 34 picked as part of a $45 million DOE push to investigate the next generation of biofuels and bioproducts.

In addition to the funding provided by the DOE and its Office of Science, Trinh will make use of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory user facility, the Joint Genome Institute, to conduct high-level research on Bacillus coagulans.

There the team hopes to study the bacteria at the most minute levels imaginable, refining and selecting its processes for optimal performance.

“Basically, new strains will be developed and streamlined to meet the requirement of a broad range of technologies,” said Trinh. “For example, one of the things associated with this particular strain is its production of lactate, which we can use to develop a new line of esters.”

In doing so, Trinh and his team can create what are known as microbial manufacturing platforms for future work on this particular strain, which can serve as a launching point for a plethora of new research directions. Development of such platforms is a key component of accelerating fundamental and translational research.