Green research company will utilize student workers

Scientists at Inventure, a company dedicated to utilizing earth-friendly technology, are working on new solutions for alternative energy sources right here on the Alabama campus.

Working in UA’s Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs building, the company has developed a reactor capable of turning organic matter into sugar, which can then be converted to ethanol. This summer, the company is building a larger reactor to turn out even more ethanol.

“Instead of using just corn, this reactor can take basically any kind of biomass – from pine trees to kudzu – and convert it ultimately into ethanol,” Rusty Sutterlin, CEO of Inventure, said.

He said the new reactor will be able to make up to one ton of the sugar syrup at a time, which will make it more attractive to investors looking to convert it into ethanol.

By using the reactor, Sutterlin said ethanol can be made at a cheaper cost and be more widely available to companies interested in its potential.

“The only problem is gathering such large quantities of organic matter to use in the reactor because it will be so big,” Sutterlin said.

He further explained that Inventure is currently looking at miscanthus, a fast-growing grass, to fuel the endeavor.

By renting space in UA’s AIME building, Inventure is able to utilize technology and student workers that it would not have access to otherwise. In return, UA students get a preview of the world of research and development.

David Gray, a senior majoring in chemical engineering major, works with Inventure and likes the connections he is making within the company.

“It’s nice to work here because it’s not totally affiliated with the University, so I have references who aren’t just professors,” Gray said. “But then, it’s still convenient because it’s right on campus.”

He believes the experience is giving him insight into what he would like to do later with his career.

UA graduate Cory Blanchard has been working with Inventure since August 2009. He said by getting involved in the company as an undergraduate, he realized he wanted to continue working there.

“It’s one of those opportunities that you find and love right out of college,” Blanchard said.

Sutterlin said Inventure is constantly working on a variety of green projects and is interested in UA researchers from all backgrounds.

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