Leading scientists from the world of bioenergy gathered in Manchester earlier this month for the International Bioenergy Conference 2014.
The conference was organised jointly by the UK Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board.
Researchers from all over the world attended the event from March 11-13 to hear about some of the latest developments in bioenergy science and consider questions relating to the field, including policy, commercialisation and international collaboration.
A wide range of presentations on diverse areas of biofuel research were given, showcasing UK bioenergy research in a global context.
Among the presenters was Professor Dr Claire Halpin from the University of Dundee, who spoke about the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre's Cell Wall Lignin Programme. The programme is exploring the genetics of barley to find ways to improve the quality of the barley crop and suitability of barley straw as a feedstock for biofuels, turning barley into an attractive food and fuel crop for farmers.
Dr Xiaoyu Yan from the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, presented on the potential for the agave plant, best known for its use in tequila production, to be grown as a biofuel feedstock in arid environments around the world. His team's research showed that agave could be a superior option to corn and switchgrass in terms of energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and ethanol output while having minimal pressure on land and water resources.
Andre Wortel, Project Manager for Bio-refinery and Processing at the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), presented the possibilities of cultivating large quantities of seaweed offshore for use as feedstocks for biofuels, bio-based chemicals, proteins and minerals, reporting on the progress of several pilot programmes in northern European seas.
Other highlights included a discussion between Professor Tim Benton, the UK Global Food Security Champion and Dr Jeremy Woods, lecturer in bioenergy at Imperial College London, on the best ways for the world to meet its food and fuel needs in the coming years.
There was also a speech from Professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) on UK and Brazilian collaborative success in bioenergy and challenges that can be addressed together.
A special edition of the journal Biomass and Bioenergy is planned featuring selected peer-reviewed papers from the conference.