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Corn and Sugarcane: Biofuels in the United States and Brazil

Denise Wilson


Corn is often recognized as a far second to sugarcane in terms of potential for addressing the global need for renewal liquid fuels. Brazil’s leading position in the biofuel industry is noteworthy as in the last few years, Brazil has become completely self-sustaining in producing sufficient liquid fuel to meet national energy demand. The United States, however, in part due to its vastly increased consumption over Brazil, continues to struggle with best practices to manage the development of renewable liquid fuel energy sources. This seminar addresses the basics of corn vs. sugarcane in terms of input, output, and broader (social/cultural, environmental) impacts and discusses the viability of other options for renewable liquid fuel (under development) such as bamboo, algae, and sugar beets. An overview of the biofuels puzzle along with a brief discussion of a UW Study Abroad program in Brazil designed around this technological challenge is the focus of this seminar.


Denise Wilson is an Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering and holds an adjunct appointment in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington. She received her B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology, both in Electrical Engineering. Prior to beginning her Ph.D., she worked for Applied Materials, a semiconductor capital equipment maker. She also holds an M.Ed. from the University of Washington (2008). Her research interests cover major threads in engineering education as well as (chemical and biological) sensors research which cross-over in her work in community based partnerships and community outreach. Her international work in study-abroad programs, run through the University of Washington Exploration Seminars, bridge her sensors and education interests.

Denise Wilson Headshot
Denise Wilson
University of Washington
EEB 105
20 Apr 2010, 10:30am until 11:30am