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Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuels Development

The Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuels Development (SCSBD) was established at the beginning of 2008 to facilitate the scientific collaboration between QUT, Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. and Farmacule Bioindustries Ltd. This is a large, complex, multi–disciplinary project developing advanced technology for the conversion of sugarcane bagasse to bioethanol. Specifically, it involves the production of cost–effective cellulosic ethanol, initially from sugarcane residue, but with application to other biomass sources. A fundamental obstacle to inexpensive production of cellulosic bioethanol is the cost associated with the production of large quantities of the cellulase enzymes required to break down biomass cellulose into fermentable sugars before ethanol can be produced.

Current technology requires production of these enzymes in expensive microbial culture factories. The SCSBD has QUT and Syngenta research staff co–located at QUT, developing complex technology for producing these enzymes in large quantities, in sugarcane plants. Further, the project is also developing the technology for extracting the enzymes from sugarcane by methods that preserve their activity and enable the remaining cane juice to be used for normal sugar production. The fibrous residue (bagasse) is predominantly cellulose which can be treated with the enzymes to convert it to fermentable sugars for ethanol production.

The prospects for developing this high–tech approach to cost-effective cellulosic bioethanol fuel production is made possible because of the fusion of several unique patented technologies owned by both Syngenta and QUT, plus the availability of excellent research and engineering facilities at QUT, and technical support capacity at Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. laboratories. The project is made possible by financial investment by the Queensland Government, Syngenta, QUT and Farmacule Bioindustries.