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On the Hunt for Cleaner Energy Sources for Drying, Handling Grain

By Whitney Baxter

Younus Bhuiyan Sabbir is on a mission to find a cleaner energy source for drying, handling and storing grain.

Sabbir, a doctoral student in agricultural and biosystems engineering, is the recipient of the 2024 Thamodaran Family Innovation in Agriculture Student Award offered through Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The scholarship, made possible by the generosity of Dhamu Thamodaran (’83 PhD economics) and his wife, Kanchana Thamodaran, is in recognition of the innovative work Sabbir is doing to solve a grand challenge related to agriculture.

That grand challenge is finding a way to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from grain elevators.

Drawing upon research he did for his master’s degree at Bangladesh Agricultural University, Sabbir will study the environmental impacts of energy usage at grain elevators and determine if alternative energy sources would not only prove as effective but decrease greenhouse gas emissions. His research is taking place at grain elevators in Boone and Woodward, Iowa, thanks to partnerships Iowa State has with those facilities.

Sabbir will measure the elevators’ environmental impact via the Life Cycle Assessment tool during all phases of grain processing. One of the aspects he will look at is if heat pumps offer an effective, cleaner energy option for drying corn compared to the widely used natural gas heating systems.

The hope is that the findings can be implemented at the Iowa State University Kent Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex.

“This type of study is not very common,” Sabbir said. “There is a lot of research from the 1970s and 1980s, but not much has been done since then related to grain elevators’ energy usage.”

“Mr. Sabbir has been a productive member of my research group,” Dirk Maier, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and director of the Iowa State University Kent Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex, wrote in a letter of support for Sabbir’s award nomination. “He is respected among his peers, has a documented passion for improving global food security, and is making good progress towards on his dissertation research.”

Following completion of his degree program, Sabbir plans to work in industry for a while before returning to the academic world as a faculty member and researcher.

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