Colleges: CAHNRS, CAS, VCEA
Technological advances in making valuable products from plant materials is essential for replacing our dependence on fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas production, adding value to forestry and cropping systems and expanding the bioeconomy. Production of liquid fuels from various feedstocks like forest residuals, algae and oilseed crops is an emphasis of several labs. Use of manure to produce methane or biogas is being examined both to produce energy and solve other environmental problems occurring at Washington dairies. Interdepartmental groups like the Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems group are optimizing feedstock production in various environments. Genetics and genomics of important biofuel crops like switchgrass, canola, camelina and poplar, as well as food crops like wheat whose residues (straw) have feedstock potential is another research focus. Microbiological research contributes both to designing biomass conversion processes and examining their potential for increasing plant productivity through nitrogen fixation and growth promotion. Efforts to make higher value products from biomass include both genetic engineering and materials science approaches. Research on wood-based composites is a specialty of the Composite Materials and Engineering Center and bio-based polymers are a focus of multiple labs belonging to the multi-institutional Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites. Metabolic pathways for plant oil biosynthesis are being studied and modified to make novel oils and lipids that are better suited for the manufacture of polymers, lubricants, soaps, solvents and other high value products. The Murdock Metabolomics and Tissue Imaging and Proteomics Service centers offer extensive Mass Spectrometry infrastructure of the identification, characterization, and even localization of secondary metabolite flavorants, odorants, and therapeutics. The activities associated with the Bioproducts Institute established between WSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory promote a collaborative culture and unique training opportunities.