Elizabeth J. Biddinger, a chemical engineer at The City College of New York, has won a U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Award that will support her research investigating innovative methods of converting chemicals obtained from plant and food matter into renewable fuels and chemicals.

Biddinger, an assistant professor in CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering, is one of just 84 recipients nationwide to receive the honor, worth $750,000 over five years. Her research focuses on the emerging field of biomass electroreduction — processes that use electricity to transform organic substances into fuels and chemicals. The findings Biddinger will obtain from her Department of Energy project will contribute to the development of small scale, on-site equipment, known as biomass upgrading depots (BUDs).

“By electrochemically converting biomass, modular units that do not require significant infrastructure as traditional chemical-processing facilities do, can be utilized in these BUDs,” said professor Biddinger. “When paired with excess renewable electricity—either from solar or wind energy—this process has potential to be both economical and sustainable.”

“The U.S. Department of Energy’s recognition of professor Biddinger’s work is another demonstration of the impact that cutting-edge, scientific research at The City University of New York is having on important fields,” said CUNY Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz.

Biddinger hopes that her research could ultimately help reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas. “Biomass electroreduction is a relatively new field of research and there are so many exciting contributions we can make including creating better fuel,” she said. “For example we could make fuel that was more ‘energy-dense’ and thus could get more mileage per gallon than other biomass-derived fuels like ethanol. This, of course, has long-range national security and environmental implications.”

The DOE Early Career Award is the latest honor for Biddinger, whose research interests encompass green chemistry and energy applications that use electrochemistry, catalysis, chemical catalysts, alternative solvents and sustainable engineering methods. Her other accolades include the 2016-2017 Electrochemical Society-Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship Award to work on battery safety switches using reversible ionic liquids, and the 2014 CUNY Junior Faculty Award for Science and Engineering from the Sloan Foundation to investigate CO2 electroreduction.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 23 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.