Agricultural Engineer, Senior R&D Staff
Dr. Erin Webb is a Senior Research and Development Staff Member in the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Joint Associate Professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Webb received a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Tennessee, an M.S. in Biosystems Engineering from the University of Kentucky, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from the University of Florida. Her graduate research, supported by fellowships from NSF and NASA, focused on modeling plant growth and evapotranspiration for improving environmental control systems. She conducted her doctoral research at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at the NASA Kennedy Space Center on simulating and modeling plant transpiration in a greenhouse on Mars. She is a licensed professional engineer.
Building on her academic research on plant-environment interactions and a desire to develop new economic opportunities for rural communities, Dr. Webb now leads multiple projects sponsored by the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office focused on simulation and analysis of supply chains to deliver biomass as a feedstock for production of fuels, products, and power. Her research aims to build and apply models of biomass harvest, storage, transportation, and preprocessing to evaluate the impacts of equipment design and system operational parameters on costs and required inputs for a variety of feedstocks. Her work has been instrumental in assessing impacts of DOE-funded feedstock harvest technologies and in estimating the delivered costs of biomass feedstocks in the highly-regarded DOE report “2016 Billion-Ton Report: Advancing Domestic Resources for a Thriving Bioeconomy”. Dr. Webb’s research also assists biorefineries and biomass suppliers in addressing the fire risk associated with storing bales of corn stover and switchgrass. She leads an industry panel that has successfully proposed changes to fire codes and standards to better reflect the fire risk in modern biomass-handling facilities. She is leading experiments to better understand fire growth and dynamics in biomass storage and handling for designing safer storage facilities. Dr. Webb also recently began working with material scientists, plant scientists, and other engineers to develop technologies for using biomass in additive manufacturing.