Researcher wins DOE grant to study sustainability of biofuels

By University of Idaho | June 11, 2018

University of Idaho College of Natural Resources Assistant Professor Tara Hudiburg was awarded $750,000 to study the sustainability of biofuels. The grant, award by the Department of Energy, is part of a $104 million project to create a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective bioproducts and bioenergy.

Hudiburg is a co-principal investigator and will lead the biogeochemical modeling as part of the sustainability initiative of the project. Biogeochemical modeling includes assessment of greenhouse gases, improving predictions of future crop yields and determining the impacts of different cropping systems on soil health, biodiversity and water quality.

“This project will advance the energy security of the U.S. while examining the economic sustainability and environmental impact of a bio-based economy,” Hudiburg said. “We are taking a holistic approach to help improve U.S. energy supply and reduce environmental impacts. I am grateful and excited to represent the University of Idaho as one of the investigators and be part of such a large and talented multi-disciplinary group.”

The project is being led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, at its Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation. There are 17 partner institutions on the project; Hudiburg is the only scientist on the team from Idaho.

“The breadth of this project depicts the need to bring together experts from the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences and engineering,” said Janet Nelson, vice president for research and economic development at U of I. “To have Tara represent us and bring her knowledge to this interdisciplinary project is invaluable and broadens the university’s research portfolio to real-world problem solving through partnership.”

Over the next five years, the research team will develop fuels and products by integrating three highly interconnected DOE priority areas: growing the right crops, turning plants into fuel, and determining the environmental and economic sustainability of these fuels.

“As the United States seeks energy independence, we need to look at the most efficient ways to grow, transform, and market biofuels,” said Evan H. DeLucia, director of CABBI and the G. William Arends Professor of Plant Biology at University of Illinois and Baum Family Director of Illinois’ Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment. “This grant is a game-changer, and CABBI will be at the forefront as we press toward a new bio-based economy. Our center’s holistic approach will generate new products directly from biomass, reducing our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and making us more secure.”

This project, “Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproduct Innovation,” was funded under U.S. Department of Energy grant No. DE-SC0018420 via pass-through entity the University of Illinois No. 090634-16929. The total amount of anticipated federal funds for the project is $759,072, which amounts to 100 percent of the total cost of the project.