Focus on Technology: The old college try - Energy Factor
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Focus on Technology: The old college try

Mike Kerby - 06/10/2016

On America’s college campuses, students have taken their final exams and most have left for the summer. At ExxonMobil, however, our work at institutions of higher learning takes no vacation.

That’s because some of our most promising and forward-looking scientific research is done in conjunction with many of the nation’s elite universities.

ExxonMobil has long sought to work with the top minds at the country’s leading research institutions. We understand that the scientific and engineering talent on campuses will be critical to solving the energy and environmental challenges of the future.

Suzanne McCarron noted recently, for instance, our collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and the University of Texas on carbon-capture-and-storage solutions.

The same holds true with our research into advanced biofuels.

Not only do we partner with companies like Synthetic Genomics and REG that are doing cutting-edge biofuels work, we also sponsor research at a number of universities – research designed to foster innovations to develop biofuels that don’t compete with food and water resources.

To take one example, consider our partnership with the Colorado School of Mines. No one would be surprised to know that ExxonMobil works with the school on issues related to oil and natural gas. But biofuels?

Absolutely. Last year, in fact, ExxonMobil announced a research agreement with the Colorado School of Mines that focuses on developing fundamental new insights into photosynthetic processes and carbon fixation in algae to make them more suitable for the production of biofuels.

“Our collaboration with ExxonMobil has expanded our mindset on what is needed to move from the lab to industrial scale with algal biofuels, which we think have enormous potential as a sustainable technology,” says Professor Matthew Posewitz, who leads the university’s research team. “Working with ExxonMobil has been a fantastic opportunity that enables us to explore how to efficiently make progress on the most important technical challenges and to gain essential insights from an industrial partner that can help inform our research going forward.”

That spirit of optimism – informed by a deep knowledge of the science – is why we look to work with people like Prof. Posewitz to overcome the scientific and technical challenges of developing biofuels from algae.

Mike Kerby is Corporate Strategic Research Manager at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company.

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