Biofuels project wins $1 million competition

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: May 12, 2011

A two-pronged University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa project to advance the use of biofuels in the Islands has won a $1 million sustainability research competition.
The two-year project, led by Michael J. Cooney from UH Mānoa’s Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute, will conduct research and plant test sites of Jatropha curcas, a fast-growing, drought resistant tropical oil-bearing plant rich in fatty oils that can be converted to biodiesel.  It will also explore the conversion of waste biomass into carbonized material that can be used for soil enrichment.
“This project has strong potential for commercializing technology and products in the next several years, while also giving UH Mānoa researchers and engineering students the opportunity to apply scientific knowledge towards sustainable industries,” said Gary K. Ostrander, UH Mānoa Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, whose office sponsored the competition.
The winning project team includes investigators from UH Mānoa’s Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Science, the Department of Oceanography, and the College of Business Administration.  RealGreen Power, a local business, will also participate in research.
The sustainability competition attracted 15 proposals from the Mānoa campus, from which seven were developed into detailed proposals that were evaluated by a Review Panel of senior UH Mānoa faculty and community business leaders.
The project includes educational outreach, through the support of a capstone engineering course, as well supporting undergraduate students in senior thesis projects  The development of a business plan for the commercialization of some of the technologies has the potential to sustain the project after its initial two-year duration, said Ostrander.