USU part of $10 million Department of Energy grant

LOGAN – A team consisting of Utah State University and six other institutions was selected to receive a four-year, $10 million research grant from the Department of Energy. The Energy Frontiers Research Center grant was given to 32 different projects nationwide.

The team that USU is a part of is known as the Center for Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis. It also includes Montana State University, the University of Georgia, the University of Washington, Arizona State University, the University of Kentucky and the National Renewable Energy Lab.

“We’d like to work as a team, not just work as a collection of individuals,” said USU biochemistry professor and researcher Lance Seefeldt. “We’d really like to solve some much bigger problems. We have a whole number of things we are trying to achieve.”

Seefeldt said he thinks that solving one of those problems is one of the reasons why his team was chosen.

“The quality of the problem we proposed to them is one that’s a very intriguing area of how energy is moved and how living systems metabolize different molecules,” he said. “And that was an area that was not well represented in these big grants at DOE. So I think it was interesting to them to have their fingers in this and to be able to play a role in this.”

The team is trying to solve this problem in order to create chemicals that could potentially be used to power cars and other things.

“The key thing that we are trying to understand is how you could take electrons that might come from let’s say a dam, or from a photovoltaic cell – a solar cell,” Seefeldt said. “Take those electrons and store them in chemicals that you could use when the sun is not shining or when the dam doesn’t have water running through it.”

Seefeldt said the grant is also a great opportunity for the students because they will be able to interact with some of the best laboratories in the world.

“It’ll impact undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctorate fellows,” he said. “We have all three levels of trainees as part of this program.”

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