Iowa State named a partner in new Department of Energy bioenergy research center

miscanthus harvest

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University is a partner institution in a new, $104 million research center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the project will study the next generation of plant-based, sustainable, cost-effective biofuels and bioproducts.

The DOE grant will form the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation, one of only four in the nation. The center will be a collaboration between Illinois’ Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.

Evan H. DeLucia, the G. William Arends Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois, will serve as the center’s director.

Emily Heaton


"This project will help us get more of our energy and products from plants instead of fossil resources,” said Emily Heaton, associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State and a project researcher. “By enabling a thriving domestic bioeconomy, this center will help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign fossil fuels.”

Adina Howe


The overall project will develop fuels and products by integrating three highly interconnected Department of Energy priority areas: growing the right crops, turning plants into fuel and determining the environmental and economic bottom line.Iowa State is one of 16 partner institutions participating in the project, and will receive $5.5 million from the grant to assess the environmental sustainability of the crops researched — sorghum and miscanthus. Besides Heaton, the Iowa State team includes Andy Van Loocke, assistant professor of agronomy; and Adina Howe, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.

Field trials conducted by the University of Illinois will be replicated by the Iowa State team, a key component in the research process.

“Iowa State will lead a supplementary hub site that will provide data from an environment independent of the Illinois site,” said Van Loocke. “Our additional site allows us to examine sustainability and performance across a broader set of soil, climate and microbial factors.” 

Andy Van Loocke

Van Loocke

The five-year project is expected to begin in December, pending Congressional appropriation, and last through 2022.

See the University of Illinois Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment news release for more information.