URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — More money is coming to the University of Illinois courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy to fund bioenergy research and development.

The College of ACES announced on Friday that the DOE has committed to another round of funding to the university to lead the second phase of the DOE’s Bioenergy Research Center. The BRC, one of four large-scale DOE-funded research centers, focuses on innovation in biofuels, bioproducts and clean energy for the country’s future.

In addition, the DOE announced a five-year extension of funding for the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Biproducts Innovation, a partnership between them, 11 academic departments at U of I and 20 other institutions across the country.

“To meet our future energy needs, we will need versatile renewables like bioenergy as a low-carbon fuel for some parts of our transportation sector,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Continuing to fund the important scientific work conducted at our Bioenergy Research Centers is critical to ensuring these sustainable resources can be an efficient and affordable part of our clean energy future.”

Phase II of CABBI’s research will continue development of fuels and products by integrating three highly interconnected DOE priority areas:

  • Feedstock production, which grows crops that provide biofuels, bioproducts and foundation molecules for conversion.
  • Conversion, which develops unique tools, yeasts, enzymes and processing methods to efficiently produce biodiesel, organic acids, jet fuels, lubricants and alcohols
  • Sustainability, which assesses the economic and ecological sustainability of CABBI feedstocks, biofuels and bioproducts

Several U of I-affiliated individuals in CABBI leadership positions will continue in their roles under the new funding, including CABBI Director Andrew Leakey, head of the university’s Department of Plant Biology .

“Energy independence has become an increasingly important security issue for the United States, and CABBI will continue to provide breakthroughs toward a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective biofuels and bioproducts that will replace fossil fuel-based products,” Leakey said. “This grant represents a massive investment in CABBI and its diverse team of scientists. We are committed to help push the U.S. toward a new bio-based economy.”

Also continuing in her role at CABBI is Emily Heaton, a professor of regenerative agriculture in ACES’ Department of Crop Sciences. Heaton leads CABBI’s feedstock production team.

“This award advances our capacity to protect and enhance the natural resource base on which all life depends by using resilient plants for power, fuel, and products,” Heaton said. “The science and practices being developed by CABBI and our collaborators will translate into secure domestic energy with climate benefits. I am excited we can also use this funding to complement our corn/soy agriculture with strategically placed perennial bioenergy crops, bringing cleaner air and water, healthier soil, and good new jobs for our rural communities.”

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