In their search for alternative energy resources, researchers at the University of Illinois have access to this gigantic “living laboratory”
Researchers at the Energy Farm have access to a modern 12,000 square feet research building that includes office space, conference room, sample processing labs, and equipment storage. Core staffing includes two full time academic professionals and seasonal students to support the faculty, students, and staff who are conducting their research on the farm.
A broad collection of sample processing equipment is housed at the farm’s lab space to process samples from field collection in preparation for laboratory analysis. Five drying ovens ranging in size from 32 ft2 to 768 ft2 allow for samples to be desiccated in preparation for further analysis. Two knife mills and one hammer mill allow for the reduction of field sample particle sizes as dictated by the analysis to be performed next. Once the samples are processed, there is archive space for the long term storage of samples for future analysis. Finally, two walk in storage rooms are on site allowing for cold storage (4c) or low humidity seed storage (50F, 50% RH). Tractors, field equipment, and harvesters of various sizes are available, along with the operators and expertise required to safely conduct field operations in support of biofuels research. Capabilities extend from row crop biofuel crops to forage / grass crops. On-site equipped machinery shop space allows for maintenance and modification of existing equipment as necessary. Welding, cutting, drilling, and milling are some of the resources that the shop has to support the fabrication of specialized research equipment.
The Energy Farm has several facilities tailored to grow and work with tall stature biofuel crops. A polycarbonate covered greenhouse was constructed in 2011 that has 2100 ft2 of bench space with rafter height of 20’. This greenhouse was positioned away from towns and campus light pollution sources to allow for modification of daylength photoperiod for crops that are not native to central Illinois. Matched with the greenhouse are two growth chambers with 13’ interior growth height to allow the tall plants to be relocated between the two areas as research protocols dictate. These resources allow for breeding efforts utilizing crops that require daylength control to initiate flowering in Illinois.