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Biofuel Pioneer: Mizzou Researcher is Recognized by Industry

March 29, 2013

Agricultural Systems Management professor, Leon Schumacher, was honored by the National Biodiesel Board with their Innovation Award for his work in biofuel research. It all began over twenty years ago with a pickup truck and a Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council grant.  From his years of alternative energy work Schumacher provided some of the first biofuel baseline research that is still used today.  Schumacher’s research contributes to the Sustainable Energy initiative.

Story by CAFNRnews

The professor of Agricultural Systems Management at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources was honored Feb. 5 with an Innovation Award from the National Biodiesel Board.  The award recognizes his early research using plant materials as liquid fuel. The award will be presented at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in Las Vegas.

Schumacher began his work in alternative energy in 1990 when a colleague mentioned the then-radical idea that oil squeezed from soybeans could replace diesel fuel.  At that time, available scientific information on the economics, operation and environmental impact of biodiesel was sparse.  Schumacher said his first thought was to buy a tractor-trailer, paint it like a NASCAR racer with soybean artwork, and drive it up and down I-70 to see what happened.  That idea didn’t start.

The Famous MU Soybean-Powered Pickup

But a grant from the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council did buy a 1992 Dodge-Cummins pickup that was used for initial scientific testing on diesels and soybeans.  That truck became a common sight on the MU campus and Missouri as it performed typical farm and hauling duties.  Schumacher and colleagues drove the truck to numerous research centers and farm progress shows in the Midwest, showing off the research and getting real-world feedback from potential consumers.

Cummins Inc., a Fortune 500 company, noticed and asked Schumacher if their engineers could tear down and inspect the Dodge’s engine when it reached 100,000 miles of operation.  That milepost represented more than 2,000 hours of operation on an engine with 100 percent biodiesel — perhaps the first powerplant to hit this mark.  They found the engine unusually clean and unworn. More…