Engineering Experts

Robert C Brown

Distinguished Professor
Mechanical Engineering
Iowa State University
United States of America

Robert C Brown


Dr. Brown is Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and Gary and Donna Hoover Chair in Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University (ISU). He holds the rank of Professor in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. Dr. Brown is widely recognized as a thought leader in processing of biomass into energy, fuels, and chemicals. He has been recognized by Biofuels Digest as one of the “Top 100 People” in bioenergy for seven consecutive years. His activities have been cited hundreds of times in the press including Nature Magazine, Scientific American, New York Times, Discovery Magazine, BBC, Aljazeera International, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He has dozens of invited talks to audiences ranging from the Iowa Democratic Caucus to the GE Whitney Symposium. Dr. Brown is the founding director of the Bioeconomy Institute (BEI), which coordinates ISU’s research, educational, and outreach activities related to biobased products and bioenergy. He also helped launch ISU’s Biorenewable Resources and Technology (BRT) graduate program, the first such degree-granting program in the United States. Dr. Brown was the director of the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies, a center within the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, from 1996 until it was merged with the Bioeconomy Institute in 2014. He was one of the founders of ISU’s BioCentury Research Farm, which was recognized in 2010 by Biofuels Digest as the “Institutional Research Facility of the Year.” He organized the Symposium on Thermochemical and Catalytic Sciences for Biofuels and Biobased Products, which bi-annually brings together international experts in gasification, pyrolysis, and solvent liquefaction to discuss recent developments in the field. Dr. Brown has built multi-disciplinary teams at ISU around several promising thermochemical platforms including bio-oil production and upgrading, syngas production and upgrading, bio-oil and syngas fermentation, and biochar production and application, resulting in over $100 million in research contracts and grants as PI or co-PI. Among the most prominent programs under his leadership is the $16.5 million ConocoPhillips Biofuels program at ISU and a $22 million NSF EPSCoR Track 1 RII Project in Renewable Energy. Dr. Brown has published over 225 refereed papers and book chapters. He wrote Biorenewable Resources: Engineering New Products from Agriculture, now in its second edition, the most widely used textbook in biorenewables over the last decade. He edited Thermochemical Processing of Biomass, published in 2011, a book for professionals working in this field. He co-authored Why Are We Producing Biofuels, a book targeting general readership, recognized by Biofuels Digest as the Book of the Year in 2012. Dr. Brown received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University in 1980. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering. He received the Don Klass Award for Excellence in Thermochemical Conversion Science in 2015. He has eighteen patents, one of which received a R&D 100 Award from Research and Development Magazine in 1997.

Research Interest

Dr. Brown is the director of the Bioeconomy Institute, which seeks to advance the use of biorenewable resources for the production of fuels, chemicals, and materials.


  • Benipal, N., Johnston, P. A., Gentile, J. C., Brown, R. C., Wenzhen, L. (2016) Direct pyrolysis bio-oil fuel cell, Fuel 185, 85-93.

  • Haverly, M. R., Okoren, K. V., Brown, R. C. (2016) Thermal stability of fractionated bio-oil from fast pyrolysis, Energy and Fuels 30, 9419-9426.

  • Hoff, T., Thilakaratne, R., Gardner, D., Brown, R., Tessonnier, J-P. (2016) Thermal Stability of Aluminum-Rich ZSM-5 Zeolites and Consequences on Aromatization Reactions, Journal of Physical Chemistry 120, 20103-20113.

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