Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium (DakotaBioCon)

In 2014, Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium (DakotaBioCon) has been established through a $6 million grant by NSF EPSCoR. The consortium brings together researchers from four institutions in two neighboring states, North Dakota and South Dakota, with similar geographical, socio-economic and environmental diversity: North Dakota State University (NDSU), South Dakota State University (SDSU), University of North Dakota (UND) and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSMT). The vision of DakotaBioCon is through cutting-edge research and development to become a recognized intellectual leader in biomass bioprocessing that can help our region, nation and global society transition to a biobased economy.

The primary goal DakotaBioCon is to establish a multi-state, multi-institution, multi-disciplinary research collaboration that will produce economically viable renewable replacements to existing petrochemicals, using lignin as a starting raw material. This work: (1) builds a long-term collaboration among the four SD/ND research universities, located in two neighboring states with similar geographical, socio-economic and environmental diversity; and (2) develops the collaborative infrastructure that will allow us to study novel pathways for sustainable production of high-value lignin-derived products. In particular, DakotaBioCon has focused on processing of lignin to renewable phenolics, aromatics and green polymers with potential use as chemical and polymeric alternatives to petrochemicals.

DakotaBioCon has five major objectives, and each of them is addressed by utilizing the existing expertise and capabilities of the participating institutions. Where relevant and needed, new expertise and infrastructure through collaborative work on specific tasks is developed.

  • Convert lignin into low molecular weight fractions while using novel analytical methods specifically designed for this application and enable detailed product analysis with mass balance closure.
  • Decipher the reaction mechanisms associated with the proposed lignin disassembly methods as a means to optimize and channel lignin fragmentation reaction pathways.
  • Design process and purification schemes to convert precursor chemicals into valuable phenolics and aromatic hydrocarbons.
  • Develop new polymers and composites from lignin-derived phenolics and aromatics.
  • Build and sustain the DakotaBioCon research and education infrastructure through collaborative activities, shared expertise, equipment, facilities, and educational activities.

These five objectives outlined above are accomplished via four integrated tasks:

  •  Processing of the isolated lignin using novel technologies with concomitant exploration of the mechanistic aspects of studied reactions.
  •  Chemical characterization of lignin-products enabling conversion of lignin precursor chemicals into aromatics and phenolics compounds with their subsequent isolation and purification, and the identification of other usable by-products.
  •  Development of renewable green monomers and polymers from lignin-derived chemicals.
  •  Integration of education and outreach with research targeting middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate students, and tribal colleges.

For more information, contact:  Dr. Alevtina Smirnova, (605) 394-1890, Alevtina.Smirnova@sdsmt.edu.