Southeast regional collaborative project shows off research advances with tour stop at AMSE

IBSS tour to feature Auburn gasifier
​​A tractor-trailer scale mobile gasifier will demonstrate how biomass can be converted to electric energy at UTIA's Ag Day on Oct. 5. The gasifier is part of a tour showing off the research accomplishments of the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems, a $15M regional project headed up by UTIA's Center for Renewable Carbon. Photo by P. McDaniels, UTIA, from the gasifier's appearance at the 2012 UT Biomass Field Day. Download photo.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The American Museum of Science and Energy is the second stop on a road show touting the successes of the first two years of a regional research partnership focused on bioenergy production centered in the Southeast. 

Coordinated by the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon and including research partner Auburn University, the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS) mobile tour will feature Auburn’s tractor-trailer scale mobile biomass gasifier, which will demonstrate how to turn biomass into electricity on a small scale. On Oct. 3, ASME visitors will also learn first-hand about how plant-based materials, including wood chips and switchgrass, are being intensively studied for possible development into all kinds of biobased fuels. 

The IBSS Partnership mobile tour, including the Auburn University gasifier, and will stop at the AMSE on Thursday, Oct. 3, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The museum is located at 300 South Tulane Avenue in Oak Ridge.
The IBSS Partnership has been involved in research to develop drop-in liquid fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for use as a replacement for grain (corn)-based ethanol. Recently the project produced some 1500 gallons of a “green” diesel fuel from Southeastern-produced plantation pine and switchgrass and technology provided in part by industrial research partners. Samples of the diesel fuel will be on display.
Tim Rials, director of the UT Center for Renewable Carbon and a biochemist, contends that the U.S. should invest in the Southeast for the production of biofuels. “In 2010 the USDA Biofuels Strategic Production Report estimated that the Southeast will be the leading region for biofuels production because we have the most robust growing season in the US,” he said.  “In addition, our region can produce a variety of biomass feedstocks including dedicated crops such as switchgrass and sorghum, along with dedicated woody crops and forest residues.”

The goal of the IBSS partnership is to demonstrate the production of advanced biofuels from sustainable sources of lignocellulosic biomass. Initially, the partnership has focused its efforts on perennial switchgrass and short-rotation woody crops like eucalyptus and pine. Rials said each dedicated crop has inherent performance and cost advantages for specific conversion technologies. “We are working to match the economic and environmental performance of each feedstock with a preferred conversion platform so that the ultimate product, the particular biobased fuel, will be reliable, available and affordable.”

Steve Taylor, professor and head of the Auburn University Department of Biosystems Engineering and the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, said that university’s involvement in the IBSS Partnership
includes developing efficient feedstock logistics systems that are safe for workers and environmentally friendly as well as advancing thermochemical conversion technologies, demonstrated by the mobile gasification plant, to produce reliable, affordable fuels.

The Center for Bioenergy Sustainability and the BioEnergy Science Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are also key partners in the broader research and education program, along with scientists at Tuskegee University, Alabama A&M University, the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University. 

The IBSS Partnership is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). One goal of NIFA's agriculture and food research initiative (AFRI) targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems. The IBBS Partnership is also charged with developing educational efforts to help prepare future workforce participants to contribute to the growth and sustainability of a new bioenergy industry in the Southeast. The IBSS mobile tour is part of an effort to make young people aware of the science involved in developing biofuels and the potential benefits of biofuels to society.

The mobile tour has a planned stop at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham on Oct. 2 and will next visit the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Ag Day on Oct. 5 and the University of Georgia’s Bioenergy Day in Athens, Ga., Oct. 8. The University of Georgia is another of the IBSS research partners. The IBSS mobile tour will return to the Auburn campus in time for the school’s Saturday, Oct. 12 homecoming activities.

The UT Center for Renewable Carbon is a program of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 AgResearch and Education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.


Jessica McCord, UTIA Center for Renewal Carbon, 865-974-7370,

Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 865-363-6009,


Information about AMSE:
ASME is open Monday - Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 - 5 p.m. ASME tells the story of the World War II Manhattan Project that created the Secret City of Oak Ridge and the science that evolved. ASME visitors can use interactive exhibits on basic science, fossil fuels, alternative energy sources, including nuclear, and participate in live demonstrations with audience participation. For more information on ASME admission, membership, exhibits, programs and classes, go to To schedule a group visit, call AMSE at 865-576-3200.