the production of countless items, from cosmetics to car parts. The project has been supported by collaborating organisations, the US Joint BioEnergy Institute and Sugar Research Australia, working with QAAFI researchers to test a range of sugarcane varieties and identify which types produce ethanol most effectively and efficiently. Sugarcane is ideal for renewables because it is fast-growing with abundant biomass and it is the research team’s goal to reinvent sugarcane as a crop with a wider range of end uses. PROFESSOR HENRY SAYS THAT THE INDUSTRY MUST THINK BEYOND JUST PRODUCING SUGAR, TO ALSO PRODUCING ELECTRICITY, BIOFUELS FOR TRANSPORTATION, AND OILS TO REPLACE TRADITIONAL PLASTICS.
REINVENTING SUGARCANE INTO ENERGY
Professor Robert Henry, Director of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) at The University of Queensland, has conducted experiments to tailor sugarcane production to produce biofuels and bioplastics. This research, supported by the ARC Linkage Projects scheme, will support the Australian sugar industry through times of increased international competition and declining sugar prices. Sugar is the last major cultivated plant to have its genome sequenced, and the researchers expect to see it fully decoded by the end of 2020. Professor Henry says that having sugar’s genetic template will allow them to look at growing sugarcane as a biofuel and a source of 100 per cent recyclable bioplastic, making it a viable substitute for petroleum in
Professor Robert Henry. Credit: UQ.
INDUSTRY-DRIVEN RESEARCH TO GENERATE ECONOMIC IMPACTS
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